U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Steven Branson, Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar security forces section leader from Camp Wright in Asadabad, Afghanistan, surveys the local farmers market Sept. 30, 2009. (Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Boisvert).
How to Prevent Tens of Thousands of Afghans From Starving to Death

Millions of Afghans will starve as Americans carve our Thanksgiving turkeys next month. By the time Christmas rolls around it may be too late to save them. Afghans are already running out of food just as the country’s brutal winter looms and the U.N. World Food Programme’s director for Afghanistan projected that its economy will collapse in a “matter of weeks.” Standing idly as millions of people succumb to cold and starvation in a country the United States occupied for two decades will permanently stain our nation’s character.

Some Americans may wince at the idea of sending more aid to Afghanistan as our own citizens struggle this holiday season. Didn’t we try that for twenty years only for the Afghans to squander it? Not exactly. Afghanistan became a black hole for American dollars precisely because aid was tied to a failing war effort. Congress had earmarked over $3 billion more for the Afghan military prior to its collapse in August— nearly equal to the grand total in humanitarian aid over the last two decades. Throwing more money at the problem of an unwinnable war became an easy answer for generals, lawmakers, and presidents alike. Much of it never reached the people who needed it most.

Two trillion hard-earned U.S. tax dollars fueled 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Our war in Afghanistan was a boon for ambitious generals, defense contractors, and corrupt Afghan elites. It made careers and paid for luxury homes in places like Dubai and McLean, Virginia. What’s left is a triumphant Taliban and a country of nearly 40 million people on the brink of starvation. The point of no return is just weeks away for Afghans caught between two decades of war and the brutalities of the Taliban regime. For some tragedy has already struck. Just recently eight orphaned Afghan children were found starved to death in Kabul. These images will become the norm soon if we do not act now. Will Americans cover their eyes as an entire generation of Afghans withers?

For some talking heads in Washington, the answer to that question is ‘yes’ for as long as the Taliban remain in power. They hope that crippling sanctions, low cash reserves, and economic pain will either force the Taliban to change their ways or inspire Afghans to overthrow them. These same assumptions underpin most U.S. sanctions in the world, the problem being that leaders almost always find a way to survive and sometimes even thrive under sanctions. It’s the people who suffer.

Read the full article in Task & Purpose.

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