WASHINGTON: A group of Afghans, including former government officials and representatives of civil society organizations, held a one-day conference in Washington on Monday in an effort to encourage communication and cooperation between US authorities and the Taliban government in Kabul to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.
The Afghan Peace and Humanitarian Task Force said it wants to help keep all lines of communication open between the international community and the Taliban in an effort to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
“The Afghan Peace and Humanitarian Task Force is initiating the Washington Conference on Peace and Humanitarian Assistance for Afghanistan primarily to forge common terms between the United States and the Taliban government, and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the starving Afghans (to prevent) the unfolding catastrophe,” conference organizers said.
The participants also discussed the potential security threat to the US and the wider world if Afghanistan remains isolated, as it was under the 1990s Taliban rule.
Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi addressed the conference from Kabul. He answered questions and pledging cooperation with the international community to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
Afghan Senator Bakhtar Aminzay told Arab News that he was encouraged by the conference, during which he said witnessed the efforts of the Afghan diaspora to bring about positive change in their country and help avert a humanitarian crisis this winter.
“I am encouraged by Mr. Muttaqi’s answers at the conference where he stressed his government’s pledge to end the war in the country and to speak a common language with the international community, as well as the US,” he said.
He added that Afghanistan must move toward peace and stability, with the help of the US and the international community, for the sake of the long-suffering population.
Halil Demir, chairman of the Zakat Foundation of America, an international Muslim charity based in Chicago, said the conference represented an important step toward a partnership between Afghan civil society organizations and the international community in an effort to help the country and its people.
He told Arab News that the humanitarian situation is dire and the lack of international recognition of local financial institutions in Afghanistan is complicating access to international aid.
“I urge the international community to recognize the local financial institutions in Afghanistan to help facilitate humanitarian aid reaching to those who need it the most,” he said.
Following a prolonged war against the American-backed former government, the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15 last year, shortly after Western troops withdrew from the country. Lack of international recognition of the new Taliban government remains the main obstacle to the delivery of aid and financial assistance to those in need.
In December, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution clearing the way for aid to reach most of the Afghans in desperate need of assistance. It was welcomed by Martin Griffiths, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, especially given the harsh winter that is expected in Afghanistan.
But according to Abdul Subhan Misbah, the chairman of Akbar, an umbrella group of 118 non-governmental civic and humanitarian Afghan organizations, the UN resolution has yet to make any difference to the people of the country.
He said that there is a wide gap between the political statements in which the international community vows to help those suffering in poor communities in Afghanistan and the reality of the situation on the ground.
“The fact is that very little, if any, aid has reached millions of Afghans,” he said.
Misbah attributed the lack of progress in helping Afghans to the ongoing tussle as the mainly Western nations demand that the Taliban commits to standards of human rights and women’s rights as a precondition of formal recognition of its government.
He said that his group demands that the US government starts to help the starving people of Afghanistan immediately.
“As for the Taliban, they must work immediately to establish a formal government in Afghanistan through dialogue and cooperation between the different segments of the Afghan society,” he added.