Akramjon Nematov: It is necessary to develop a post-conflict strategy for Afghanistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- On 26 November, the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, together with the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Foreign Affairs of Hungary, organized an online webinar on the topic: “New political reality in Afghanistan. Possible directions of cooperation between Uzbekistan and the EU” with the participation of leading experts and scientists from the two countries.
During the event, it was noted that the new Afghan government is faced with a complex of complex problems in the political, socio-economic and security spheres.
The most serious problem is the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which may have negative consequences for the security and sustainable development of both Central Asia and the entire international community.
Already this year, the International Monetary Fund and the UN expect the country’s economy to decline by 30-40%, which will lead to an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line to 36 million, that is, to impoverishment of almost 95% of the Afghan population.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that Afghanistan has suffered from a severe drought for the second time in the past four years. This year, it affected 22 of the 34 provinces of the country and led to the loss of 40% of all crops, a 20% reduction in the grain yield alone, and the livestock population by 3 million units. This was a major shock to agriculture, which provides jobs and livelihoods for 43% of the country’s population (almost 17 million people). In general, the natural disaster brought 37% of rural households to the brink of survival. And this is an impressive figure, given that 74% of the country’s population lives in rural areas, that is, more than 27 million people.
Today, 18.9 million Afghans, that is, 47% of the population, are experiencing an acute shortage of food products. According to forecasts of the World Food Program and the UN Food and Agriculture Program, in the period from November this year to March next year, the number of hungry people in Afghanistan may increase to 22.8 people.
At the same time, in the context of the deepening socio-economic crisis, women and children, who make up the largest part of the population, are the most vulnerable. According to the United Nations Population Fund, out of 39.8 million people. more than 60%, that is, 24 million Afghans, are under 19 years old, while the number of women exceeds 48%, accounting for more than 19 million people.
As noted in the UN, by now more than 3.2 million children under the age of 5 are at particular risk, and more than 1 million children by the end of this year may face the risk of starvation. Women and children also make up 80%, more than 5 million Afghans who have so far been forced out of their homes by the crisis.
According to the first deputy director of ISMI Akramjon Nematov, the worsening socio-economic situation, the humanitarian crisis create a fertile ground for uncontrolled migration, the growth of organized crime, illegal drug and arms trafficking, create conditions for strengthening the activities of extremist and terrorist organizations, including ISIS, before just by replenishing its ranks with young Afghans deprived of prospects for a better life.
The expert believes that the difficult socio-economic situation, coupled with the aggravation of the military-political situation, can lead to further destabilization of the situation not only in Afghanistan, but also in the entire region of Central and South Asia with a new flow of refugees.
Considering the current dynamics and situation in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, as the closest neighbor connected with the Afghan people by common history, religion, culture and traditions, family ties, cannot leave Afghanistan alone with these problems.
Moreover, Afghanistan itself will not be able to cope with them. Until now, 75% of government spending and 43% of the country’s GDP, which is US$8 billion, were formed at the expense of external financing. According to UNDP, banks in Afghanistan will lose 40% of their deposit base by the end of the year. Lack of financial resources aggravates the shortage of goods, especially food and medical, accelerates inflation, which has already reached more than 30%.
This is due to the fact that Afghanistan is highly dependent on imports, which at the beginning of the year accounted for 95% of the structure of foreign trade turnover, exceeding US$8 billion.
Akmal Nematov stressed the importance of consolidating the efforts of the international community in providing urgent humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Uzbekistan already provides humanitarian support and contributes to international efforts in this direction, develops cross-border cooperation. In particular, Uzbekistan is making efforts to turn the city of Termez into an international hub for providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
In addition, it is indicated that it is advisable to unfreeze Afghanistan’s international assets, which will be used for social needs, in particular, for the payment of salaries for teachers, doctors, representatives of the social sphere, as well as indigent citizens.
Moreover, the importance of developing a post-conflict strategy with regard to Afghanistan, which will create the necessary prerequisites for its formation of a peaceful, stable and prosperous country, free from terrorism, wars and drugs, is indicated.
Professor of Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies Abdusamat Khaydarov stressed that with the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, the current government seeks to use Islam as a stabilizing force and normalization of the situation in the country. Of course, after more than forty years of armed confrontation, there are costs and discontent on the part of certain political forces in the country. Nevertheless, according to the professor, the current government is striving to resolve the current difficult economic situation, attracting national specialists for the effective work of state bodies. At the same time, the Afghan government is interested in developing cooperation with foreign countries, and primarily with neighboring countries, promising to create favorable conditions for them.
It seems, he stressed, that today the Taliban are the only force capable of stabilizing the situation. Its further development will largely depend on the international community, its ability to use contacts with the current Taliban government in order to restore the country’s economy.
Peter Wagner, an expert at the Hungarian Institute of International Relations and Trade, noted that today the main task of the new Afghan government is to gain international recognition. Since coming to power, the Taliban are trying to fulfill their obligations not only to the Afghan people, but also to the international community.
They announced a general amnesty to everyone who worked with the previous government - officials, the military, girls began to go to school in some provinces of Afghanistan, and the country is waging a fight against international terrorist groups.
It was emphasized that the Taliban allows the international community to freely deliver humanitarian aid to vulnerable sectors of the population.
Nevertheless, according to the Hungarian expert, today one should not expect the Taliban to comply with Western human rights standards or establish a democratic system of government. When building a state on Afghan soil, it is necessary to take into account historical, national and religious traditions, which were ignored by Western countries in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
In addition, as P. Wagner said, on their part, the EU states have provided 1 billion euros in recent months in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. In the near future, the EU plans to allocate another 200 million euros in humanitarian aid and other programs, including those aimed at educating young people.
At the same time, as the representative of the Hungarian think tank noted, given the deep understanding of the situation in Afghanistan in Uzbekistan, the EU is interested in cooperating with Tashkent in the Afghan direction. "Only coordinated and consolidated efforts of regional and international countries can become a serious barrier to turning Afghanistan into a source of permanent threat to the international community," he concluded.
The online webinar was held within the framework of a memorandum of cooperation between ISMI and the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Foreign Affairs of Hungary, signed in March 2021 during the visit of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Uzbekistan.
Hungary is a member of the European Union, represented in the Organization of Turkic States, and is the leading partner of our country in Eastern Europe. Since 2016, trade with Hungary has grown 2.5 times to US$110 million in 2020, the volume of investments made is more than US$140 million.`