11/1/2021 United States (International Christian Concern) – Afghanistan has been in economic freefall since U.S. troops withdrew and the Taliban gained control of the country in August. The UN is calling it the worst humanitarian crisis the world has ever known. Neighbors are sharing small portions of bread, but entire families continue to starve. According to The Economist, a family, including eight children, died from starvation earlier this month. ICC previously reported that conditions are worse than imagined. Original estimates placed nearly a third of the country under the threat of starvation. Now, that number is over half the population—roughly 23 million. Christians are one of the most significant at-risk communities because they are considered apostates by the Taliban.
Several world leaders have suggested that the only solution to the humanitarian crisis is to release sanctioned assets and negotiate with the Taliban. UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “humanitarian assistance is an entry point for effective engagement with the Taliban,” and Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry insisted that no progress will be made without recognition and direct negotiation with the Taliban.
Although the U.S. has pledged $64 million and the EU has pledged 1.2 billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan, Western leaders maintain that funds must go to humanitarian relief organizations rather than the Taliban. President Biden’s conditions also include continued safe passage of Americans, according to The New York Times. The Biden administration spoke to the Taliban twice in mid-October without deciding to increase aid.
This week, a Foreign Policy (FP) article concluded that lifting sanctions would likely result in the Taliban engagement in the short term but would not halt human rights violations. FP highlighted that in order to grant aid to the Taliban, the West must be willing to suspend aid if expectations are not met, require decisive policies from Taliban leadership, offer more appealing incentives than other countries, and prove that the Taliban is not engaging in covert atrocities. Judging the Taliban by their past, these recommendations are unlikely to occur.
The Taliban is designated an Entity of Particular Concern (EPC) by the U.S. State Department, a category reserved for gross human rights violators.
Since the Taliban takeover, victims of beatings, kidnappings, torture, and murders of women and religious minorities have increased dramatically. Underground church leaders testify to the martyrdom of many. Others remain in hiding.
Direct negotiation with the Taliban risks legitimizing their authority in the eyes of the world and aid given could potentially fuel brutality against Christians. The Taliban’s goal has always been to purify their brand of Sunni Islam and weed out any non-conformists.
Christians require immediate rescue. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and 21 cosponsors have introduced S.2863, the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act focused on expanding Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) for those left in Afghanistan, continued sanctions against the Taliban, and aid restrictions for non-humanitarian assistance. ICC supports these aims and hopes the U.S. extends Priority-2 immigration status to persecuted Christians.