G7 Leaders to Meet this Week to Discuss the Future of Afghanistan

G7 leaders will meet this week to discuss Afghanistan. To avoid adding to the cycle of misery, bloodshed, and enormous refugee flows, the G7 leaders must think carefully about the fundamental objectives for Afghanistan.

Above all, they should utilize the summit to coordinate policy among the seven countries in advance of measures by the UN Security Council, which is a far more important venue.

With this in mind, the G7 should work with the Taliban in Afghanistan rather than isolate or starve the country. This is critical not only as a short-term strategy for getting Westerners and vulnerable Afghans out of the country safely, but also in the long run to avert future bloodshed, humanitarian crises, and refugee influxes.

The US and its G7 allies attempt to implement long-term hold on Afghanistan’s foreign-exchange reserves, freeze development funding, and ratchet up US and UN sanctions strategy may not be the best direction.

Many in the US political establishment are asking for the Taliban to be punished. However, the rest of the G7 and the rest of the world should resist any excessive action that may put the country and its citizens at risk.

The G7 countries, UN agencies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) should be prepared to continue, if not enhance, financial support to Afghanistan if the Taliban refrains from vengeance killings or a savage crackdown on women and girls.

The G7 nations should commission an independent assessment to determine why their development programme from 2001 to 20 did not help Afghanistan’s government and armed forces stable and improve enough to fight the Taliban’s reconquest of the country.

Second, the G7 should urge the United Nations Security Council to incorporate economic and sustainable development considerations into its future actions and planning in Afghanistan, including frequent reporting from UN officials on the ground.

The Security Council should learn quarterly whether children, including girls, are in school (with supplies and teachers for them); whether clinics are operating; whether villages have access to water and electricity; whether mothers can receive neonatal and obstetrical care; and, finally, whether there are sufficient development funds to cover these essentials.

The Sustainable Development Goals include such benchmarks, and they should apply to a Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan just as they did to the NATO-backed government.

Unfortunately, the NATO mission failed to take on the SDGs effectively. For example, overall donor aid to Afghanistan for educational activities in 2019 was a pitiful $312 million, or a pitiful $20 per child for the 15 million school-aged children in Afghanistan (ages 5-19). The United States, on the other hand, paid roughly $1 million per year per soldier for the thousands of forces stationed in Afghanistan.

None of the aid supplied for education was funneled through the government budget. Instead, it took the shape of direct projects carried out by NGOs and other outsiders. It’s understandable that the Afghan people had low expectations of their government. It was not educating their children (or performing other essential societal duties), and the donors were not assisting the government in any way other than providing security.

The G7 leaders should be clear about their main objectives in Afghanistan: extract their citizens and Afghan partners, and then work constructively with countries to support the country and its citizen and establish some sense of order to help plan out the next step in Afghanistan’s future.

Photo Credit: https://metro.co.uk/2021/08/22/boris-johnson-to-hold-urgent-afghanistan-talks-with-g7-leaders-15132585/