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Cash airlift plan to bypass Taliban and help Afghans: Sources

When desperate Afghans resort to selling their belongings to buy food, international officials are preparing to fly in cash to those in need while avoiding Taliban government funding, according to people familiar with the secret plans.

Cash airlift plans are moving ahead against a backdrop of a rapidly crumbling economy where money is scarce, though diplomats are still debating whether Western powers can demand that the Taliban make concessions in return, seen by Reuters. According to internal policy documents.

Emergency funding aimed at averting a humanitarian crisis in the face of drought and political turmoil, US dollar bills for distribution through banks in payments of less than $200 directly to the poor, with the Taliban’s blessings but without their participation can flow into Kabul. .

As well as flying in cash to prevent an immediate crisis, donor countries want to set up a “humanitarian-plus” trust fund that will pay salaries and keep schools and hospitals open, two senior officials said.

Many Afghans have started selling their wealth to pay for scarce food forever. According to the World Bank, the departure of the US-led military and several international donors robbed the country of grants, which financed 75% of public spending.

The West’s unconventional strategy reflects the dilemma it is facing. Still eager to help Afghanistan after two decades of war, and also hate paying money to the Taliban, who seized power in August and still between 1996, to stop mass migration The rigid way of ruling the country has not shown significant change. 2001.

cash drops

The United Nations has warned that 14 million Afghans face starvation. Mary-Ellen McGarty, director of the United Nations World Food Program Afghanistan, said the cash crunch could cause the economy to collapse.

“Many parents are skipping meals so their kids can eat,” she said. In recent days, Western diplomats and officials have stepped up efforts to establish a cash lifeline.

The United Nations World Food Program has distributed about 10 million Afghans ($110,000) in cash through a local bank and intends to deliver soon, said a person with knowledge of the situation. Cash Run is a test for big air deliveries
Dollars from Pakistan, the person said.

A senior diplomat said two approaches were being considered that would inject cash into the Afghan economy. Both are in the planning stage. Under the first plan, the World Food Program would fly in cash and distribute it directly to people to buy food, which the agency is already doing on a smaller scale.

The second approach would be to look at the cash flows from the banks to the United Nations. The diplomat said it would be used to pay salaries to employees of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.

A third person said UN officials had spoken to Afghan banks about opening up cash distribution channels.

“No one wants to rush to recognize the Taliban, but we need to deal with them. The question is not… but how.” A spokesman for the World Food Program said it killed nearly 4 million people in September. which was almost three times the number of August, mainly with food, and some cash aid was given in Kabul.

The spokesman said the cash crunch is also affecting the mill owners and truck drivers with whom he used to work.

$9 billion leverage

Separately, the European Union, Britain and the United States have discussed bypassing the Afghan government and setting up an international trust fund to finance local services, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the cash airlift plans. A US Treasury spokesman said it would allow humanitarian aid through independent international and non-governmental organizations while “denying assets” to the Taliban and approving its leaders.

The Kabul government has little to back down. The central bank, with $9 billion in frozen offshore assets, has burned out most of its reserves at home. Shah Mahrabi, an official who helped oversee the bank before the Taliban came to power and is still in his post, recently appealed for the release of foreign reserves.

“If reserves remain piling up, Afghan importers will not be able to pay for their shipments, banks will begin to collapse, food will become scarce,” he said. But there is also a debate about whether strings should be connected for cash issuance. In a paper written last month and seen by Reuters, French and German officials outlined their purpose to use the money as a “lever” to put pressure on the Taliban.

In the two-page report, officials said, “Countries can condition the political … the legitimacy of the Taliban to the commitments they will be willing to take.” stated in the note. Increasing the possibility of freeing Afghan reserves held abroad.

In a separate diplomatic note, French and German officials outlined five demands to be made to the Taliban. These include allowing Afghans to do so, “severing ties with terrorist organizations”, allowing access to humanitarian aid. Respect for human rights and the establishment of an “inclusive government”.

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