Taliban warns US, EU sanctions could trigger wave of Afghan refugees

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have warned Western diplomats that insisting on sanctions as a means to pressure their governance could undermine security and trigger a wave of economic refugees.

The acting foreign minister of the Taliban government, Amir Khan Muttaqi, told the US and European envoys during recent talks in Qatar that “weakening the Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone because its negative effects will directly affect the world in (the) security sector and economic migration from the country,” according to a statement published late on Tuesday.

Muttaqi told the Doha meeting, “We urge world countries to end existing sanctions and let banks operate normally so that charity groups, organizations and the government can pay salaries to their staff with their own reserves and international financial assistance.”

Afghanistan’s economy is in crisis. Most aid has been cut off as winter nears; food prices are rising, and unemployment is spiking. The Taliban’s efforts to stabilize the situation have been undermined by international sanctions, as banks are running out of cash and civil servants are going unpaid.

On Sunday, US administration officials and their European counterparts held their first face-to-face meeting with the Taliban leaders since the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in August. The Taliban say they warned the United States against destabilizing the government in Afghanistan and also asked Washington to lift the ban on the Afghan central bank reserves.

Brussels seeks to prevent a repeat of Europe’s 2015 migration crisis when more than one million people fleeing war and poverty in West Asia arrived in the bloc. But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that any donating money would be used to help Afghanistan’s neighbors or given in “direct support” to the Afghan people, bypassing the Taliban government.

The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country in the face of the lightning advances of the Taliban that followed US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops in a disastrous pullout. The Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government on September 7.

The United States is now reportedly going to increase drone surveillance and strikes in Afghanistan despite formally pulling out the troops.

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