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Afghans need more than humanitarian aid to prosper

Authors: Hameed Hakimi, Mark Bowden

Experts warn that Western disengagement risks condemning a whole nation to grinding poverty

In an opinion piece published in The Diplomat, Hameed Hakimi – an associate fellow at Chatham House and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, who specialises in Afghanistan – and Mark Bowden – a former deputy special representative of the UN secretary general for Afghanistan where he was also the UN resident coordinator, humanitarian coordinator, and in charge of coordinating UN system activities between 2012 and 2017 – discuss the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover in August 2021.

Despite the scale of poverty and vulnerability having significantly increased, Western governments and donors have placed restrictions on aid to avoid being associated with support for the Taliban – aid conditionality seems to have no impact on the Taliban’s behaviour.

However, the authors say that full-scale non-engagement is not an option, and abandoning Afghans will in effect turn Afghanistan into a pariah state, with dire consequences.

They argue that humanitarian responses alone cannot solve the socioeconomic catastrophe in the country – economic measures are also needed, such as support for the financial system, empowering the private sector, and long-term planning and engagement with communities at local level.

The authors recommend that Western governments urgently seek pathways to facilitate the return of international financial institutions to the country to revive its economy and banking system; and reach a meaningful accommodation with the Taliban to allow for the resumption of development projects so that ordinary Afghans can return to work.

The authors warn that if Western governments and humanitarian actors abandon Afghans now, they will be condemning a whole nation to a grinding cycle of brutal poverty with unpredictable long-term consequences, including for international security.


The UK Humanitarian Innovation Hub is an independent entity hosted within Elrha and fully funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.


Western Disengagement Will Turn Afghanistan Into a Pariah State

Experts warn that Western disengagement risks condemning a whole nation to grinding poverty

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