Photo: Wakil Kohsar / AFP

Taliban forces aid agencies to prioritize its members or face ban, CBS News reports

According to the report by CBS News, aid workers from US-funded international aid organizations in Afghanistan have been coerced into providing assistance to the Taliban or else face being banned from working in the country.

The report cites anonymous aid workers from various organizations, who reveal that they are required to serve the families of Taliban police commanders, governors, and others designated by the group before they can help ordinary citizens.

“Once a Taliban governor told one of our subcontracted aid agencies that 15% of the aid must go toward his guards and other Taliban personnel, and it is now a norm to serve the Taliban first and then serve the ordinary civilians.” A UNHCR employee told CBS.

Moreover, interference by the Taliban has made it increasingly difficult for aid organizations to determine on their own who to help, as the group often makes its own list of selected beneficiaries.

Hamid Khan, an aid worker with a local NGO that’s subcontracted by the World Food Program (WFP) in Afghanistan told CBS: “People who need aid the most are pregnant women, orphans, widows and other highly in need people, but the Taliban make their own list of selected people. If we do not serve them first, then we would be banned from working and dozens of excuses will be made preventing the NGO from working altogether, and the others will also not receive their much-needed aid.”

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In some cases, Taliban members have positioned themselves to access international aid by becoming partners or shareholders in local non-profit groups, which then work as partners or subcontractors for larger aid organizations.

Abdullah Khan, who works for a U.N. agency in Afghanistan, told CBS News that “In one meeting with the provincial governor that we had, we were informed by the Taliban that we must give aid to the families of the suicide bombers who have died, and to the injured Taliban soldiers who are alive but unable to work. We are facing severe Taliban interference in our aid operations, but to help the poor, we have to work with them.”

According to a staff member from a regional NGO operating in northern Afghanistan who wished to remain anonymous, their organization has been compelled to hire a minimum of 70% local staff according to the preferences and demands of Taliban members. If the NGO fails to comply, it will not be allowed to operate. The staff member disclosed that their organization has approximately 50 employees in each province, with around 35 of them being locals who are preferred by the Taliban and have agreed to share their salaries with the group. The NGO is being forced to hire them.

The lack of humanitarian aid distribution by the Taliban in different provinces was previously reported on multiple occasions. Last week, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) expressed concern that they cannot guarantee that American taxpayer money will not reach the Taliban.