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U.S. must help address hunger and economic woes in Afghanistan | READER COMMENTARY

Khatira Habibi, 28, prepares tea in her home in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Her family is one of thousands of Afghan families registering with the U.N.’s World Food Program to receive food and cash that her family desperately needs just for survival. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Khatira Habibi, 28, prepares tea in her home in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Her family is one of thousands of Afghan families registering with the U.N.’s World Food Program to receive food and cash that her family desperately needs just for survival. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Thank you for the recent article on Afghan refugees (“Humanitarian parole proves elusive,” Nov. 21). It highlights the grief experienced by refugees over friends and family who are still in Afghanistan. However, the article omits the most serious threat facing those left behind: the free fall of the economy and the resulting lack of paid work and food, with famine now imminent throughout the country.

The United Nations estimates that 1 million children under the age of 5 are likely to starve to death this winter, along with millions of older Afghan children and adults. The economic upheaval largely responsible for the famine is mostly the result of conditions related to the American war and to postwar U.S. policies. The U.S. has placed sanctions on Afghanistan and has frozen over $9 billion of the country’s assets. This has caused banking to cease and the economy to crash with Afghan civilians having no way to support themselves or to obtain food, while also making it impossible for most aid organizations to help.

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The U.S. should negotiate with the Taliban to allow the government access to the country’s own funds, conditional on the Taliban’s respect for the rights of women and ethnic minorities which could be easily monitored. Once assets are unfrozen, the banking system can become functional once again, the economy can begin to be rebuilt, and aid can flow in for those who are starving. We ask that our members of Congress, including Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, immediately urge the Biden administration to negotiate an end to these economic policies that are already beginning to result in the biggest famine of our lifetimes.

How can we just watch while hundreds of thousands of babies starve to death?

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Jean Athey, Baltimore

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