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Growing Economic Crisis in Afghanistan a Month after US Evacuation

September 17, 2021

A month after seizing Kabul, the Taliban face daunting challenges in transforming their lightning military victory into a long-term peacetime government. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in development spending over the last 20 years, Afghanistan’s economy is in ruins after four decades of war and the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

Food shortages are driving millions to the cities, and the World Food Program fears that food will run out by the end of the month, putting up to 14 million people at risk of starvation. While much attention in the West has focused on whether the new Taliban government will keep its promises to protect women’s rights or provide safe haven for militant groups such as al Qaeda, many Afghans’ primary concern is simply survival.

“Every Afghan, every child, is hungry, and they don’t have a single bag of flour or cooking oil,” said Abdullah, a Kabul resident. Long lines remain outside banks, where weekly withdrawal limits of $200 or 20,000 Afghani have been imposed to protect the country’s shrinking reserves. In Kabul, impromptu markets where people sell household goods for cash have sprouted up, but buyers are in short supply.

Also with billions of dollars in foreign aid, Afghanistan’s economy had been struggling, with growth falling short of keeping up with the country’s steady population growth. Unemployment is high, and many government employees have been working without pay since at least July. While most people appear to have welcomed the end of the fighting, any relief has been tempered by the economy’s near-shutdown. “Security is quite good right now, but we’re not earning anything,” said a butcher from Kabul’s Bibi Mahro neighborhood, who declined to give his name. “Every day, things become more difficult and bitter for us. It’s a terrible situation.”

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