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Afghanistan IG Blasts State & Defense Departments for Restricting Information on Afghanistan

Oct. 30 (EIRNS)–John Sopko, the Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), blasted the State and Defense departments for their lack of cooperation with his office in remarks prepared for the Military Reporters & Editors Association Annual Conference yesterday. “U.S. agencies have not made honest reporting easy for SIGAR” or for the news media in reporting on the war in Afghanistan, he said. Sopko described efforts, some very recent, by the two departments to restrict the information available to the public in SIGAR’s reports, among them the fact that SIGAR has to put some information for its quarterly reports into classified annexes, all of which, he argued, should be declassified.

The State Department claims that its requests to restrict information is to protect Afghans who worked with the U.S. occupation but, Sopko said, “State was never able to describe any specific threats to individuals that were supposedly contained in our reports, nor did State ever explain how removing our reports now could possibly protect anyone since many were years old and already extensively disseminated worldwide.”

Sopko reported that he recently received a letter from the State Department asking that 2,400 items on the SIGAR website, attached to the letter in spreadsheet form, be redacted. “[I]t quickly became clear to us that State had little, if any, criteria for determining whether the information actually endangered anyone – and I think you will agree with me that some of the requests were bizarre to say the least.” Among them was a request that SIGAR redact the name of Ashraf Ghani from its reports. “While I’m sure the former President may wish to be excised from the annals of history, I don’t believe he faces any threats simply from being referenced by SIGAR,” Sopko said. He added that SIGAR’s own risk assessment found all but four of State’s 2,400 redaction requests to be without merit.

Sopko argued that the main reason why few people understand why the U.S./NATO-created Afghan government fell so quickly in August is because of the information that the State and Defense departments have withheld from release. This includes information compiled on the performance of the Afghan security forces since 2015. “This information almost certainly would have benefited Congress and the public in assessing whether progress was being made in Afghanistan and, more importantly, whether we should have ended our efforts there earlier,” Sopko said. “Yet SIGAR was forced to relegate this information into classified appendices, making it much more difficult for Members of Congress to access the information, and completely eliminating public and press access to and discussion of that information.”

The documents now known as the Afghanistan Papers were originally produced in Sopko’s office and they showed, among other things, that the private assessments of U.S. officials often contradicted their public statements on the “progress” the U.S. was making in Afghanistan.

SIGAR also released its latest quarterly report, yesterday, in which it found that more than $100 billion went down the drain when the government collapsed on August 15. The United States provided $89 billion in training and equipping the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and more than $17 billion “in on-budget assistance” to the Afghan government, according to the report. The net result of all of this expenditure is now zero as the government it was meant to support no longer exists.

UN Official Warns of Economic Collapse and Food Insecurity in Afghanistan

Oct. 30 (EIRNS)–In New York, UN humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths told The Associated Press in an interview that the G20 leaders should worry about Afghanistan because its economy is collapsing and half the population risks not having enough food to eat as the snows have already started to fall. Half the Afghan children under age five are at risk of acute malnutrition and there is an outbreak of measles in every single province which is “a red light” and “the canary in the mine” for what’s happening in society, he said.

Griffiths warned that food insecurity leads to malnutrition, then disease and death, and “absent corrective action” the world will be seeing deaths in Afghanistan. He said the World Food Program is feeding 4 million people in Afghanistan now, but the U.N. predicts that because of the dire winter conditions and the economic collapse it is going to have to provide food to triple that number — 12 million Afghans — “and that’s massive.”

“So, the message that I would give to the leaders of the G 20 is worry about economic collapse in Afghanistan, because economic collapse in Afghanistan will, of course, have an exponential effect on the region,” he said. “And the specific issue that I would ask them to focus on first, is the issue of getting cash into the economy in Afghanistan — not into the hands of the Taliban — into the hands of the people whose access to their own bank accounts is not frozen.”

Afghanistan Is at “the Precipice;” More Than Half of Its People Now Face Famine

The latest “Food Security” report on Afghanistan released yesterday by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) raises the alarm that Afghanistan is becoming the largest humanitarian crisis in the world—beyond even the horror of the famines in Yemen, Ethiopia, Syria, and South Sudan. The facts, maps, and descriptions included in that report make clear that mass death has begun, and that the U.S.-led Western financial sanctions are playing a major role in this catastrophe. This is genocide.

The number of Afghanistan’s people suffering “acute food insecurity” has risen, even after this season’s harvest, from 14 million to 18.8 million people—47% of the nation’s population. That’s a 37% increase since the last assessment carried out by these agencies in April. The FAO and WFP now project that, come the November to March winter months, at least 22.8 million people—more than half (55%) of Afghanistan’s people—will be starving to death. Be clear: “acute food insecurity” is not chronic hunger; it is defined as “when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger.”

“Economic decline” stemming from the imposition of international financial sanctions is identified right up front as a “key driver” of this catastrophe, along with conflict and drought. “In the wake of Afghanistan’s political transition and the consequent freezing of US$ 9.5 billion in national assets, the economy plummeted,” the report acknowledges. “The banking system suffered severe disruption, and the national currency lost 12.5 percent of value, leading to high unemployment and food prices.”

In large part because of the sanctions, “for the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities…. Across cities, towns and villages, virtually no family can afford sufficient food, according to recent WFP surveys,” the World Food Program reported in a press release. “Rampant unemployment and a liquidity crisis are putting all major urban centers in danger of slipping into a Phase 4 emergency level of food insecurity, including formerly middle class populations,” the report finds.

“Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises—if not the worst—and food security has all but collapsed,” WFP executive director David Beasley warned in releasing this report. “This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance, and unless the economy can be resuscitated…. Hunger is rising and children are dying … the international community must come together to address this crisis, which is fast spinning out of control.”

The WFP press release cites one of the authors of the report, Jean-Martin Bauer, on how one million Afghan children, right now, are in danger of dying of hunger. Bauer asserted that “no one wants to see Afghan children die as a result of, you know, politics, essentially.”

Prove him right; join the Schiller Institute’s international campaign to end the financial strangulation of Afghanistan, and sign and circulate its “Call to Release the funds of the Afghan people.”

Wang Yi, Afghan Govt. Meeting Agrees To Set Up Joint Working Committees

Both China and Afghanistan appear to view the two days of meetings between Afghan Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Doha yesterday and today, as productive and friendly.

Going into the talks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin yesterday noted the importance of the talks, the first at this level since their meetings in July before the Taliban assumption of power. “The Afghan people are seeing a historic opportunity to independently take control of their country’s future,” at the same time that they face “many difficulties and challenges, where there is an urgent need for external support,” the spokesman emphasized. “Against such a backdrop, the Chinese side and the Afghan Taliban authorities have agreed to meet in Doha.”

Global Times reports that Wang Yi spoke of China’s concerns (EITM terrorism, the need for inclusive government, for avoiding chaos, and for having good relations with neighbors, etc.), but also expressed China’s support for Afghanistan’s development:

“Wang urged the US and the West to lift sanctions on the country. He also called upon all parties to engage with the Afghan Taliban in a rational and pragmatic manner to help Afghanistan embark on a path of healthy development,” Global Times reported.

“Wang said that Afghanistan is now at a critical stage of transforming from chaos to governance, and is facing a historic opportunity to achieve reconciliation and advance national reconstruction. But challenges still lay ahead, including the humanitarian crises, economic chaos and terrorist threats, which require more understanding and support from the international community.”

Global Times reported that Baradar had briefed Wang on the current situation in Afghanistan, and told him “that the Afghan Taliban attaches great importance to China’s security concerns, and will resolutely honor its promise and never allow any forces to use the Afghan territory to harm China.”

Afghanistan’s Tolo News, citing government spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, reports that Beijing had promised to provide $5 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, and that the two governments had agreed to set up three committees. “The first committee is working on political and diplomatic relations; the second will focus on creating relations and understanding between the two countries; and the third committee is working on economic projects,” Mujahid reported.

Haiti Stands “at the Gates of Hell” Where Human Life Is Unbearable

This was the headline in today’s edition of the Haitian online daily Haite Libre, describing the unbearable existence that citizens of Port-au-Prince and other cities face every day, because of the ongoing work stoppages and gang activity that have affected every aspect of human life. The armed gangs which make transportation by road of gasoline and diesel fuel impossible, also block trucks’ access to the main petroleum storage facility at Varreux, holding hostage 25,000 barrels of gasoline and 50,000 barrels of diesel fuel that should be going to gas stations, hospitals, communications companies, state water and electricity companies, etc. Yet, there is no functioning police force to deal with the gangs. As the Miami Herald’s veteran Haiti expert Jacqueline Charles pointed out in an Oct. 25 interview with Slate, the gangs are far better armed than the police and, as many observers have pointed out, act like a quasi-state, in the absence of a functioning state or functioning state institutions.

So today, most hospitals in Port-au-Prince are not open except for perhaps a skeleton crew of a few doctors and nurses or a couple of medical students. There is no fuel for the power plants that keep the generators going that provide electricity for operating rooms or oxygen tanks. At Haiti’s largest cancer treatment center, X-ray machines and other equipment lie idle—there is no power to run them. Hospital director Kedner Pierre told CNN’s Matt Rivers that refrigerators have been packed with ice to try to preserve some chemotherapy medicines. The National Ambulance Center can’t deploy ambulances, because there is no fuel. The nearby Hospital Universitaire de la Paix is turning away pretty much every patient because, aside from fuel shortages, there aren’t enough doctors or nurses on staff. Personnel can’t get to work, or sometimes sleep at the hospital, as kidnapping is a risk for anyone traveling on the streets. Rivers concludes, then, “that one of Haiti’s largest hospitals simply isn’t functioning.” This is the case at every healthcare facility in the capital..

But the damage doesn’t stop here. Fuel shortages are also affecting mobile telecommunications services whose antennas are powered by generators that can’t function without fuel. Digicel, Haiti’s largest mobile network, reports that 433 of its 1,500 antenna sites are not operational because there is no fuel for generators, Le Nouvelliste reports. The Haitian government department in charge of potable water and sanitation, DINEPA, warns of water shortages as it lacks the diesel fuel needed to keep operational its powerful generator that in turn supplies energy to the stations and pumps that supply drinking water. The state electric company, EDH, warns of blackouts. A former Haitian consul in the Dominican Republic, Edwin Paraison, who has lived in Santo Domingo since the 2010 earthquake, told Dominican TV yesterday that, obviously, Haiti needs the help of the international community to deal with the gangs and security situation. But, he warned, the solution must not be one imposed on Haiti by the international community, but rather the result of a dialogue between the international community and Haitian authorities and civil society to determine together a strategy to deal with the current untenable security situation.

President Xi Jinping’s Speaks on 50th Anniversary: The Restoration Of The Lawful Seat Of The People’s Republic Of China in The United Nations

October 25, 2021 (EIRNS)–On October 25, at a meeting in China to commemorate the People’s Republic of China taking its lawful seat in the United Nations, Chinese President Xi Jinping reviewed the last 50 years’ progress of China and world development, and stated the necessary principles which, if followed, will foster peace, and keep nations out of war. Xi stated:

“Fifty years ago today, the 26th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted, with an overwhelming majority, Resolution 2758, and the decision was made to restore all rights of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations and to recognize the representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations. It was a victory for the Chinese people and a victory for people of the world.

“Today, on this special date, we are here to review the past history and look to the future, and that makes our gathering all the more significant…

“On this occasion, I wish to express, on behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people, heartfelt gratitude to all countries that co-sponsored and supported UN General Assembly Resolution 2758, and to pay high tribute to all countries and people that stand on the side of justice.

“The past five decades since New China restored its lawful seat in the United Nations have witnessed China’s peaceful development and its commitment and dedication to the welfare of all humanity.”

Xi’s speech, affirming China’s commitment to and emphasis on the well-being of all humanity—as opposed to geopolitical blocs and actions taken outside of international law—comes just days after the U.S. State Department’s extremely dangerous provocation against China, in which State Department representatives met with government representatives of Taiwan to discuss “Taiwan’s ability to participate meaningfully at the UN…,” which would be in complete violation of UN Resolution 2758, and the one-China principle. Read the entire speech here.

Afghanistan’s Drought and Water Crisis Worsening; 2,000 Health Facilities Close

Afghanistan’s Drought and Water Crisis Are Worsening; 2,000 Health Facilities Close

Oct. 25, 2021 (EIRNS)–Afghanistan’s collapse in physical economic and agricultural production, the implosion of its health system, as well as the threat to human life, has gotten worse over the last two months. The nationwide drought is intensifying, while the West applies a tourniquet to the flow of necessary funds.

Physical economic conditions never stay in a “metastable state;” they either get better or worse.

In June of this year, then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani officially declared a drought in Afghanistan. This was based on information from several agencies, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which declared that “80% of Afghanistan is exposed to serious drought”—30% to “severe drought,” and 50% to “serious drought,” comprising 80%—and the remaining 20% part of the country was exposed to “moderate drought.”

Richard Trenchard, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization director for Afghanistan, stated in late September, “This is the worst drought in 35–36 years. Many public institutions which provide a safety net, have ceased to function. Farmers have very little to fall back upon.”

Farming is being destroyed. The UN reported August 25, “Some 40 percent of [Afghanistan’s] crops have been lost to drought in the second massive water shortage in three years—further heightening food insecurity.” The World Food Program already reported that 14 million people in Afghanistan are food insecure, a number that is doubtless rising.

But the shortage of water is affecting not only agriculture, but the whole economy and society, which depends on water. A 2008 report reported “that drinking water supplies reach only 23 percent of Afghanistan’s total population… The country’s total sanitation coverage [is] only 12 percent.”

Two critical infrastructural sectors expose some of the crisis.

Afghanistan has only a combined approximately 100 private and public hospitals for a nation of 40 million people, a meager amount. The nation’s health system is run through a network of 2,200 “health facilities,” about 200 of which appear to be primary health clinics; it is not clear how large the other facilities are. These 2,200 facilities are run through an institution called Sehatmandi which is administered by the World Bank through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund and the Afghan Ministry of Public Health. It is funded through the World Bank, the European Union, Canada and Global Financing Facilities.

When the Taliban came to power in the period of August 17–18, these funding institutions cut off money. On September 30, Alexander Matheou, the Asia Pacific director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stated that “over 2,000 health facilities have closed.” He added that more than 20,000 health workers in the country were no longer working or were working without being paid; more than 7,000 of them are women. “People might agree to work without salaries for a few more weeks,” Matheou stated. “But once medicines run out totally, if you can’t switch on the lights, if you’ve got nothing to offer somebody who comes to your clinic, then they’ll shut the doors.”

Under intense pressure, on September 20, the Global Fund and the United Nations Development Fund signed an agreement to supply $15 million to the 2,200 health facilities. This is a drop in the bucket.

International donors pledged in October $1.2 billion to Afghanistan. But there are three roadblocks: 1) it is not clear how much of the pledged money will be really delivered; 2) it takes sometimes months for the money to get into the system; and 3) above all, the clinics are greatly inadequate, Afghanistan needs hundreds of new advanced hospitals, tens of thousands of skilled doctors and nurses, and so forth.

In the meantime, COVID is looming. Nine of Afghanistan’s 37 COVID hospitals have closed. Afghanistan has put a reported only 2.2 million COVID jabs into people; it has 1.2 million doses of vaccine waiting to be distributed, that haven’t been. They will expire by the end of the year.

This is pure and simple genocide.

As for water, Afghanistan has an annual surface water runoff water volume of 57,000 million cubic meters per year, which comes out to approximately 1,425 cubic meters/year per capita. This is insufficient, but would be a start. However, Afghanistan does not have an adequate water basin catchment system, and precipitation is not evenly distributed geographically.

In 2016, India spent $275 million to complete what is now called the “Afghan-India Friendship Dam” in Herat province on the Hari River. It will irrigate 75,000 hectares of land. But otherwise, new dam construction and broader water management hardly exists.

The U.S. is blocking more than $9 billion in Afghanistan’s central bank that belong to the Afghan people. The World Bank, IMF, and EU are blocking hundreds of millions more. (See the Schiller Institute’s demand for release of the Afghans’ funds at this link.)

These more than $10 billion, were they deposited in a fund under sovereign Afghan control, could be used to build hospitals, administer the COVID-19 vaccine; begin emergency food and water distribution; make down payments on dams and water management projects; build power stations, etc. Immediate building in Afghanistan must start.

Putin Calls on Western Nations to Release Afghanistan’s Reserves

Asked at the Valdai Club Discussion, how Afghanistan can be helped to achieve political stability and economic development, President Putin emphasized that while the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Afghanistan’s neighbors will help the country economically, the Western nations who occupied the country for 20 years must take primary responsibility to stabilize the situation. “The first thing they must do,” Putin said, “is to release Afghan assets, and give Afghanistan an opportunity to resolve high priority socio-economic problems.”

The exchange, with Tsinghua University strategist Zhou Bo, follows:

Zhou Bo: “Mr. President, it is really my great honor to ask you this question. I will ask you something about Afghanistan. Afghanistan lies in the heart of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. So, if Afghanistan has a problem, then the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has a problem. Now the United States has withdrawn from Afghanistan. So how can the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is led by China and Russia, united with other countries, help Afghanistan to achieve political stability and economic development?”

Vladimir Putin:
“The situation in Afghanistan is one of the most urgent issues today. You know, we have just had a meeting in the appropriate format, in part, with representatives of the Taliban. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is also active in Afghanistan. This is a very serious issue for all of us because for both China and Russia it is extremely important to have a calm, developing Afghanistan that is not a source of terrorism, or any form of radicalism, next to our national borders, if not on our borders.

“We are now seeing what is happening inside Afghanistan. Unfortunately, different groups, including ISIS are still there. There are already victims among the Taliban movement, which, as a whole, is still trying to get rid of these radical elements and we know of such examples. This is very important for us, for both Russia and China.

“In order to normalize the situation properly and at the right pace, it is necessary, of course, to help Afghanistan restore its economy because drugs are another huge problem. It is a known fact that 90 percent of opiates come to the world market from Afghanistan. And if there is no money, what will they do? From what sources and how will they fund their social programs?

“Therefore, for all the importance of our participation in these processes – both China and Russia and other SCO countries – the main responsibility for what is happening there is still borne by the countries that fought there for 20 years. I believe the first thing they must do is to release Afghan assets and give Afghanistan an opportunity to resolve high priority socio-economic problems.

“For our part, we can implement specific large projects and deal with domestic security issues. Our special services are in contact with their Afghan counterparts. For us, within the SCO, it is very important to get this work up and running because Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are right on the border with Afghanistan. We have a military facility in Tajikistan. It was based on the 201st division when it was still Soviet.

“Therefore, we will actively continue this work with China on a bilateral plane, develop dialogue with relevant structures and promote cooperation within the SCO as a whole. In the process, we will allocate the required resources and create all the conditions to let our citizens feel safe regardless of what is happening in Afghanistan.”

Russia Foreign Minister Announces Shutdown of Russian Mission to NATO

Oct. 18 (EIRNS)—Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced this morning that the Russian Mission to NATO would be shutting down within two weeks, and that the NATO Information Office in Moscow would, as a consequence, be closed. “As a result of purposeful steps by NATO, we do not have the right conditions for elementary diplomatic activities,” he told TASS news agency, RT reported. “In response to NATO’s actions, we are suspending the work of our permanent mission, including the work of our chief military representative.”

The NATO International Secretariat has already been notified,” Lavrov added. “If NATO members have any urgent matters, they can contact our ambassador in Belgium, who ensures bilateral relations between Russia and the Kingdom of Belgium.” 

Dominican Friend of the Schiller Institute Proposes Emergency Measures for Haiti

Oct. 18 (EIRNS)–A Dominican friend of the Schiller Institute who has been discussing the plan for reconstruction and development of Haiti, made a number of specific proposals on emergency measures he feels should be taken right away, in the context of the broader strategic program to transform the nation. While he took issue with the Institute’s proposal to solve Haiti’s vast energy deficit with nuclear energy, and only addressed the security situation in a general way, his proposals overall are serious and excellent. He emphasizes the Dominican Republic’s crucial role in developing Haiti and the whole island of Hispaniola. He writes:

“I want to make a couple of comments regarding the program to develop and save Haiti as well as my own country, because we are inextricably linked to the same consequences as this is one island and neither of our nations can relocate ourselves. I think that the program should be divided into two main parts:

1) A comprehensive emergency program to mitigate hunger, disease, uncertainty and the dissolution of the country. This would include:

–massive and sustained distribution of cooked, canned or fresh foods—cooked on the spot on stoves on trucks (many of these are already used in my country in disaster zones).

— set up mobile clinics on trucks that can reach poor neighborhoods in the cities or countryside;

—set up mobile schools, transported by truck, for basic education that can be located in rented locales;

—provide facilities, funding, tractors, consulting, etc., to small farmers who produce food, as well as to cattle ranchers and poultry farmers who raise cattle, pigs, chickens and eggs either at home or on farms;

–provide specialized machinery and personnel to build basic access routes, indispensable neighborhood roads or trunk routes, and small bridges

–provide large quantities of construction material to build low-cost houses, preferably prefabricated, and furnish them with household goods;

–build mobile government offices that would be used primarily for dealing with civil matters;

— identify sources of water to be made potable through chemical processes and osmotic filtration (in which I am a specialist).

–provide large quantities of clothing, shoes, sheets, mattresses, folding beds, mosquito netting and insect repellent;

–massive distribution of vitamins, minerals, painkillers, medicines to treat parasites and diarrhea, mobile laboratories for basic analyses of fluids, and dental clinics;

2) A strategic program like [the Schiller Institute’s Haiti program,] with which I fundamentally agree. We have to see how a mechanism for directing the process can be created without interference—so that everything can be monitored and be above board, because the whole [Haitian] government is illegitimate, and no one knows for sure what its plans are nor to whom it really answers. As I mentioned, the Dominican Republic can play a crucial role in the carrying out of any plan, as we’ve already done this [before] without international aid.

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