Sunday Dispatch: Vijay Prashad Speaks On Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Crisis
February 18th 2022
Photo courtesy of: Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi
Each week on the Sunday Dispatch, Lindsay Riley talks with writers, activists and experts to better understand issues from all around the world. On Sunday, he sat down with historian and journalist Vijay Prashad to discuss the dangerous humanitarian crisis facing the people of Afghanistan.
Heading into a deadly winter, more than 27 million Afghans are facing potential starvation. More than 97 per cent of the population are expected to fall well beyond the poverty line. Vijay says that the deprivation in the country’s living standards can be traced back to Western sanctions against Afghanistan – particularly the United States government’s decision to freeze the entire money reserves of the Afghanistan government after the Taliban took back power last year.
“I mean, this is a crisis of unimaginable proportions. Nobody is talking about it. Or if they are talking about it, it’s only insofar as to say, well let’s increase the aid. There’s no need to increase the aid. Firstly, Afghanistan needs to get its money back – it’s nine and a half billion dollars, kidnapped, hijacked by the United States government.”
These billions of dollars include private deposits by Afghanistan citizens, who, due to the freeze, are unable to access funds and purchase food and critical medical supplies. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has announced that half of the frozen funds, about $3.5bn (USD), will instead be spent to pay victims of the 9/11 attacks. Vijay says that the people of Afghanistan will be “paying for something they didn’t do.”
“The problem is the United States was embarrassed that it was defeated by the Taliban, and now they are punishing the Taliban, and now by consequence punishing the Afghan people.”
The economic power of the United States since World War II has meant that most countries in the world accept the US dollar as the standard currency of exchange, including Afghanistan after the US invasion and occupation in 2001. Vijay says that unless this lopsided financial power changes, citizens of other countries in the world, along with Afghanistan, will continue to suffer if they are denied access to US dollars or face economic sanctions that deny them access to global financial systems.
“That’s the problem. We need a multipolar financial system. Or at least an international financial system. Not one that’s international in name only… So the dollar is not used as a weapon.”
For more of Vijay’s commentary, follow him on Twitter @vijayprashad.
For more interviews like this, tune in to the Sunday Dispatch from 8:15am each week on the Sunday Overhang with Lindsay Riley. In the meantime, you can listen back to Lindsay’s full interview with Vijay Prashad up top.