American Aid May Be Financing the Taliban. It Shouldn’t Be

Since its retreat from Afghanistan in 2020, the U.S. has sought to continue providing humanitarian aid to the country’s citizens, who need it more desperately than ever. Dovid Efune and Benny Avni report that much of the money appears to be going into the Taliban’s coffers:

Last year the Taliban-controlled central bank, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, began posting on its Twitter account photos of pallets of an estimated $40 million in small-denomination Federal Reserve notes. They were packed in casings and sat at the Kabul airport’s tarmac. In the tweet, the bank thanked those who have sent the cash, meant to “help the needy.”

The photographed delivery was part of an infusion of cash arriving monthly at the airport last year. . . . A new delivery was expected this week. The Biden administration has “stonewalled” inquiries about $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid that has been spent “to support the Afghan people since the Taliban’s takeover,” the American special inspector-general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, wrote in a recent report.

The son of the martyred sheikh Ahmad Shah Massoud—known as the Lion of Panjshir—a longtime American ally, Ahmad Massoud believes that cash deliveries to the Kabul airport come from America, and that they supply his enemies with “a lifeline.” Without them, “the Taliban will not survive,” Mr. Massoud says.

Separately, the United Nations humanitarian operation in Afghanistan is financed with money from the UN’s annual budget, nearly a quarter of which is funded by America. The UN sends cash to Afghanistan because the country’s central bank has been cut off from the international system. Hard-to-trace cash deliveries meant for various UN agencies and “partners,” however, go to Taliban-controlled banks, making it easy to finance Taliban pet projects and favored allies.

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Afghanistan, Humanitarian aid, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood