Photo: Department of State

Supporting Afghanistan’s humanitarian and economic crises urgent priority, US State Department

The US State Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said on Monday that Afghanistan’s ongoing humanitarian and economic crises are an urgent priority for the US. 

When asked to comment on former US representative in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad’s remarks on encouraging politicians to return to Afghanistan and make a unity government, Patel said that Khalilzad does not speak on behalf of the US State Department or the US Government. 

“He is a private citizen so I will let you parse through his comments with him as you so will,” he responded to the question during a press conference.

“What I will say is that the US ultimately wants to see an Afghanistan that is at peace with itself, at peace with its neighbors, able to stand on its own two feet, and our policy towards Afghanistan centers around this goal. Supporting the Afghan people, including by helping address Afghanistan’s ongoing humanitarian and economic crises, is an urgent priority for us.”

The US Deputy Spokesperson asserted that the US remains the single largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, providing lifesaving assistance to the population since August 2021.

This was also reflected in a recent report to the US Congress where the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated that the US remains Afghanistan’s largest donor, giving more than $2.35 billion in funding to the country since the Taliban takeover.

However, the Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul recently threatened to block the US funding to Afghanistan until he gets assurances it is not going to the Taliban.

When asked about a recent SIGAR report that Biden Administration is providing $2.35 billion from US taxpayers to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, McCaul told Fox News Sunday, “I’m prepared in my position to put a hold on this funding until we get assurances it is not going right into the hands of the Taliban.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that the humanitarian needs in Afghanistan are all-time high due to conflict, drought, and acute poverty—threatening over two-thirds of the population in the country, approximately 28.8 million people.

OCHA’s multi-sectoral humanitarian response requires $3.23 billion for this year, but it has only received $744 million, which is 23% of the total.