Tuesday marked one year since the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan. While violence has significantly dropped in the country, millions of Afghans are facing starvation as the US maintains sanctions and refuses to release billions in Afghan central bank reserves.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s humanitarian chief, urged donors to raise $770 million for Afghanistan aid and warned that six million Afghans are facing famine in an address to the UN Security Council.
Griffiths said that more than half of Afghanistan’s 39 million people need assistance and that close to 19 million people are facing acute food shortages. He said that humanitarian aid alone “will never be able to replace the provision of system-wide services to 40 million people across the country.”
Among the problems Griffiths said need to be addressed are the country’s banking crisis and the extreme difficulty of international financial transactions. Both are a result of the US policy of seizing central bank reserves and maintaining sanctions on the Taliban, who now lead the Afghan government.
The US froze $7 billion in Afghan central bank reserves when the Taliban entered Kabul last year and have refused to return the funds. The US has reportedly decided to continue talks with the Taliban on the reserves, but so far, no progress has been made. There has also been no progress on the US potentially recognizing the Taliban-led government.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin marked the one-year anniversary of the withdrawal on Tuesday in a memorandum to Pentagon personnel. He said that the US’s “work is not done” in the country.
“We must keep a relentless focus on counterterrorism—and we are,” Austin said. His memorandum came not long after the CIA launched a drone strike in Kabul, which President Biden claimed killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. It marked the first US airstrike in the country since August 29, 2021, when the US killed 10 civilians, including seven children, in a drone strike in Kabul.
While the US has only launched one known airstrike in Afghanistan since the withdrawal, the Taliban has said US surveillance drones continue to fly over the country.