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This picture taken on November 22, 2021 shows women waiting for staff members from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to check their children for signs of malnutrition, at a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Herat. The UN's children's agency UNICEF estimates that some 3.2 million Afghan children under the age of five will suffer from malnutrition this winter. (Photo: by Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden's Sanctions on Afghanistan Could Kill More Civilians Than Two Decades of War

22.8 million Afghans—more than half the population—are facing acute food insecurity. Lift Biden administration's hold on billions of central bank reserves.

Mark Weisbrot

 by USA Today

When President Joe Biden decided to withdraw the U.S. military from Afghanistan last year, much of America's news media came down on him like a ton of bricks. Republicans piled on, calling the withdrawal an "unmitigated disaster."

But getting out was the right move.

In fact, the real mistake was the opposite: The Biden administration did not end the war, but continued it by other means, which are turning out to be more violent and destabilizing. The economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies are causing widespread, severe hunger in this desperately poor country.

$7 billion in central bank reserves

Unless those sanctions are soon reversed, it is estimated that more people will die from the economic impact of sanctions over the next year than the number who died in 20 years of war.

The most important reason to end this nightmare is that these sanctions are threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of innocent people. 

The most destructive economic sanction is the U.S. confiscation of more than $7 billion in international reserves belonging to Afghanistan's central bank. The reserves are needed for essential imports such as food and medicine, but also for the central bank to play its normal role in maintaining a functioning financial system and economic stability.

Aid groups trying to distribute food and save peoples' lives cannot in many cases move the necessary funds, and the health care system has been collapsing.


© 2021 USA Today
Mark Weisbrot

Mark Weisbrot

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy. His latest book is "Failed: What the "Experts" Got Wrong about the Global Economy" (2015). He is author of co-author, with Dean Baker, of "Social Security: The Phony Crisis" (2001).

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