Afghanistan – sanctions violating international law strangling the desperately poor country

by Winfried Pogorzelski

15 August is a public holiday in Afghanistan. On this day in 2021, after 20 years of supporting a corrupt government installed by the West, NATO troops left the country, leaving power to the Taliban who had previously taken control of it. Although Afghanistan is rich in natural resources, abject poverty and constant famine still prevail. It is a sign of cynicism second to none that sanctions that violate international law are still being maintained, having been imposed after the Taliban came to power and which UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for to be lifted in an urgent appeal as early as 2022. The ongoing drought is further exacerbating the situation. Due to declining donations, the UN is rationing aid deliveries and is urgently calling for more support.

Sanctions on the back of the weakest

Swiss radio’s “International” program reported last spring that Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi was strongly calling on the world to recognise the Taliban government and lift paralysing US sanctions. The security situation has improved significantly since the Taliban came to power; There is no justification for maintaining sanctions against the war-marked country. He promptly faced accusations from the author of the report that he had concealed the massive oppression of women as the main reason for the sanctions.
  What cynicism, what hypocrisy on the back of those who are pretended to be liberated! The US’ motive for invading Afghanistan was certainly not the well-being of women, but rather the tough pursuit of geostrategic interests.
  This is also made clear by the following facts: The US and many Western countries summarily declared the Afghan government a terrorist organisation, which to this day justifies the fact that 7.1 billion USD from the Afghan Central Bank’s possessions are kept at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was frozen with flimsy justification that they wanted to compensate American victims of terrorism (e. g., the 9/11 terrorist attacks) and later support Afghanistan in the reconstruction. The consequences of all these measures are catastrophic, especially for those who are pretended to be helped: women in particular suffer from malnutrition and low birth rates, the number of miscarriages is high, as is the child mortality rate. The lifting of the sanctions could provide immediate relief here.

UN Secretary General António
Guterres’ appeal went unheeded

Half a year after the end of the military operation by the USA and its allies, on 26 January 2022, António Guterres addressed the world public with moving words in view of the catastrophic conditions in the country (see box). Farmers, teachers, police officers, healthcare and administrative workers do not receive salaries because they were previously financed by the international community. No wonder that the banking, health, and education systems as well as the administration have collapsed. 28.8 million people are in constant need of humanitarian assistance, and almost the entire population lives in poverty; Women and girls are particularly affected.
  The Brussels-based organisation International Crisis Group (ICG) is urging donor countries to begin negotiations with the Afghans. The war was over and so the money would go to the institutions and those affected who urgently need it. This is contradicted by the USA, which doubts the independence of the Afghan central bank. She is possibly involved in money laundering and terrorist financing... also here an unproven allegation and unacceptable interference in internal affairs.

Bitter poverty on earth –
wealth under the ground:
Afghanistan’s natural resources

According to the World Bank, significant export income could be generated from mineral resources such as crude oil, copper, lithium, rare earths, bauxite, and others, especially since these are metals and minerals that are in high demand worldwide for green technologies such as batteries, solar systems and wind turbines.
  Not surprisingly many raw material companies, politicians, economists, and warlords were and are interested in this wealth. The American Department of Defence once spoke of the “Saudi Arabia of lithium”. At the time, President Barack Obama planned to develop a mining industry; Donald Trump and advisers to the then Afghan government saw mining as a win-win situation for both countries: good for the Afghan economy, jobs for Americans and advantages for the US over rival China. Fortunately, the country was not plundered under Western aegis …
  In contrast to the USA, China and Russia still maintain their diplomatic missions in the country and are in contact with the Taliban, who in turn are trying to do business with the two countries.
  But the matter is complicated: prerequisites for the extraction and use of raw materials are stable political conditions over a long period of time, a successful fight against corruption and a functioning economy that can, over time, build the necessary infrastructure (technologies, transport, etc.). Diverse know-how and, last but not least, large financial resources
 … China has already indicated that it is waiting for international recognition of the Taliban regime.

Official talks between
Afghanistan and the USA?

According to an article by Russia Today, the Taliban and the US have made contact. The aim could be to re-establish diplomatic relations. The subject of these confidence-building measures was the lifting of sanctions and the return of blocked funds from the Afghan National Bank. The American representatives, it goes on to say, took note that the inflation rate had fallen and that exports of goods had increased. The human rights situation, however, remains worrying. This is certainly no cause for celebration, especially since there is a fair amount of scepticism when the USA of all places take such steps. We urgently wish that a better future begins soon for the unique country and its people. After decades of terrorisation, the West has every reason to finally play a constructive role.  •


Babst, Andreas. “Aus Rebellen sind Bürokraten geworden – die Taliban feiern den zweiten Jahrestag ihrer Machtübernahme” (Rebels have become bureaucrats – the Taliban are celebrating the second anniversary of their seizure of power), NZZ online of 15 August 2023,

Jessen, Jan. “Afghanen im Stich gelassen – ein moralischer Offenbarungseid” (Afghans abandoned – a moral revelation), Hamburger Abendblatt online of 14 August 2023,

Hasselbach, Christoph. “Sanktionen behindern Hilfe für Afghanistan” (Sanctions hinder aid for Afghanistan), Deutsche Welle of 12 January 2022,

Hosp, Gerald. “Kupfer, Lithium und Erdöl: Sitzen die Taliban auf einem Schatz von 1000 Dollar?” (Copper, lithium and petroleum: Are the Taliban sitting on a treasure of USD 1,000?), NZZ online of 31 August 2021

“Jahrestag des US-Abzugs wird afghanischer Nationalfeiertag” (Anniversary of US withdrawal becomes Afghan national holiday), anonymous, RT DE of 18 June 2023,

Peters, Maren. “Frauen in Afghanistan” (Women in Afghanistan), SRF 2, "International",

“Seit der Machtübernahme in Afghanistan: Erste offizielle Gespräche zwischen Taliban und USA” (Since the takeover of power in Afghanistan: First official talks between the Taliban and the USA), RT DE,

Werning, Rainer. “Vermessen, verdrängt, vergessen – Afghanistan zwei Jahre nach der Rückkehr der Taliban” (Measured, repressed, forgotten – Afghanistan two years after the return of the Taliban), Nachdenkseiten online, of 15 August 2023

“USA beschlagnahmen Gelder der afghanischen Zentralbank” (US confiscates funds from Afghan central bank), Deutsche Welle of 11 February 2022,

“For the Afghans, daily life has become a frozen hell”

wp. On 26 January 2022, six months after the Taliban took power, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave a speech to the UN Security Council. In drastic words, he described the extreme plight of the Afghan people and made an urgent appeal to the world public: “At this moment, we need the global community – and this Council – to put their hands on the wheel of progress, provide resources and prevent Afghanistan from spiralling any further. […] First and most urgently, we need to scale-up our humanitarian operations to save lives. […] International funding must be allowed to pay the salaries of public-sector workers. From surgeons and nurses, to teachers, sanitation workers and electricians – all are vital to keeping systems up-and-running. And they’re critical to Afghanistan’s future. […] Second – and deeply connected to the first – we need to jump-start Afghanistan’s economy through increased liquidity. We must pull the economy back from the brink. This means finding ways to free-up frozen currency reserves and re-engage Afghanistan’s Central Bank, […].”

Source: Current Concerns No 5 of 1 March 2022, "Devastating Situation in Afghanistan: Hunger, blocked national wealth, sanctions"

Doha 2020 Peace Agreement: Capitulation of a superpower and new Afghan government of the Taliban

wp. On 29 February 2020, a memorable event took place: After the unsuccessful attempt to permanently install a corrupt regime in Afghanistan that was loyal to the USA and the NATO countries, the USA made a contractual commitment in Doha, Qatar, to stay out of internal affairs with immediate effect, withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and hand over power to the Taliban.
  The Taliban, for their part, pledged not to harm members of NATO states. The soldiers of the Afghan National Army and the People’s Militia, many of whom had been waiting in vain for months for their pay, had surrendered beforehand mostly without a fight because they no longer wanted to serve an unsuccessful regime installed by foreign countries.
  On 15 August, Kabul finally surrendered. Prior to that, talks between the Taliban and Moscow, Beijing and Tehran had taken place. Both the new rulers and the neighbours expressed their interest in stabilising the situation. The development did not come about by chance: many Taliban graduated from Pakistani theological colleges, studied diplomacy and politics and were trained in military combat strategies. A generation that has grown up in the meantime wants to live in a more open society.

Source: Baraki, Matin.  Current Concerns No 19/20 of 6 September 2021 
“After 20 years of civil war and 20 years of Nato war, Afghan peoples long only for peace!”.

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