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Canada is complicit in the starvation of Afghanistan

95% of Afghanistan’s population is not getting enough to eat, and 3.5 million children are in need of nutrition treatment

Canadian PoliticsMiddle East

School for street working children, Mazar-e-Shariff, Afghanistan. Photo from Flickr.

Since the Biden administration stole $7 billion from the Afghan central bank in February 2022, the United Nations has reported that 95 percent of Afghanistan’s population is not getting enough to eat. 3.5 million children are in need of nutrition treatment. 800,000 children are “acutely malnourished,” and UN researchers expect this number to reach 3.2 million by the year’s end.

It is already estimated that more Afghans will die because of Biden’s sanctions than died in the last 20 years of war. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov has not minced words: “The fate of an entire generation of Afghans is at stake.”

In the Biden administration, there is simply no discussion of returning the full $7 billion to Afghanistan. Rather, the administration split the total sum into two and promised $3.5 billion to the families of those who died in 9/11, even though many of them are refusing to accept the money on the grounds that it was stolen from a starving nation. Last week, a federal magistrate judge recommended that victims not be allowed to use the seized central bank assets to pay off debts owed by the Taliban.

On August 15, State Department spokesperson Ned Price refused to even entertain the idea of returning the full $7 billion to Afghanistan. He said that the other $3.5 billion is not being returned because the US is seeking to find “mechanisms that could be put in place to see to it that these $3.5 billion in preserved assets make their way efficiently and effectively to the people of Afghanistan.” Price did not mention the fact that, as the Biden administration sits on these stolen billions, only one out of every 20 Afghans is getting enough food to sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, many parents have been forced to make the impossibly difficult decision of selling their daughters into marriage in order for their families to survive. “Child marriage has always existed in Afghanistan,” writes Robyn Huang, but since February 2022 it has become more and more common for families to sell their daughters into marriage in order to afford basic household goods.

“The country’s aid-dependent economy was already on edge when the Taliban seized power last August,” Huang explains. “Then the international community froze about $9bn in Afghan assets overseas and halted all funding… The consequences have been devastating for a country already battered by decades of war and poverty.” Now, “[m]any are making desperate decisions to survive, including selling their children—specifically young daughters—into marriage or arranging their marriages in order to receive a dowry or mahr.”

For many Afghans, this dowry is their only way to raise the money they need to eat. Others have taken to selling their kidneys on the black market.

The Trudeau government has totally ignored the Biden administration’s responsibility for this atrocious situation. On top of that, Canadian laws are actively preventing food aid from reaching Afghanistan.

On August 10, the CBC reported that the Canada-based charity World Vision had to cancel a shipment of food that would have fed 1,800 children because of a federal law that bans Canadians who “directly or indirectly” provide “terrorist organizations” (in this case the Taliban) with property or finances. Anyone who breaks this law can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Canadian media is totally out of step with the severity of this crisis and Ottawa’s complicity in intensifying it. Most coverage of Afghanistan in Canadian news outlets focuses on the country as a “safe haven” for “extremists” or urges Ottawa to do more to help Afghans fleeing the externally imposed devastation. Some papers like the Toronto Sun even have the gall to write feel-good pieces about escaped Afghan interpreters living the “Canadian dream” while millions in Afghanistan starve because of US and Canadian laws.

The Trudeau government’s actions against the Afghan people do not equal Biden’s in terms of quantitative destruction, but they are certainly equals in terms of cynicism and arrogance.

Owen Schalk is a writer based in Winnipeg. He is primarily interested in applying theories of imperialism, neocolonialism, and underdevelopment to global capitalism and Canada’s role therein. Visit his website at www.owenschalk.com.

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