Tuesday, September 28

Taliban negotiate a transitional government, threatened by bankruptcy and protests

The Taliban are negotiating “a transition” with Afghan government politicians and veteran leaders such as former President Hamid Karzai, as they grow difficult to govern amid the liquidity crisis, chaos on the routes out of the country and growing citizen protests. They assure that they will create an “inclusive” regime, but they have already made it clear that “it will not be a democracy.”

A source with knowledge of the negotiations assured elDiario.es that “there is a good chance that there will be a transition agreement.”

A Taliban leader told Reuters that “Afghanistan could be ruled by a government council” and that “the supreme leader of the militant Islamist movement, Haibatullah Akhundzada, will likely remain in command.” Fundamentalist group member Waheedullah Hashimi said they are missing. Many questions to be finalized, but he stressed that Afghanistan “will not be a democracy.” “There will be no democratic system because it has no basis in our country and we will not discuss what kind of political system should be applied in Afghanistan, because the answer is already obvious, it is sharia law“Hashimi said.

Meanwhile, protests from the population have increased. They have more participants than those of the first hours, after the Kabul assault, and they are taking place in several cities of the country. The Taliban violently broke up a protest of about 200 people near the presidential palace in the capital.

Local media reported several deaths in these protests. The Taliban acknowledged that there have been at least 12 in the chaotic access to Kabul airport. His aggressiveness to prevent civilians from entering the airport has also been suffered by workers from the Spanish embassy in Kabul, including a driver who was injured on Wednesday when he tried to attend the call of the Foreign Ministry to be evacuated.

Lack of liquidity

The resistance of the population can be one of the problems of the Taliban to govern.

The most urgent may be the lack of liquidity to manage the institutions built in the last 20 years in the country. They are largely unable to access their foreign exchange reserves and Western donors, who have so far financed nearly 75% of Afghan institutions, have stopped or threatened to do so.

In recent years, the radical Islamist group has gained independence in relation to the aid it receives from allies who have financed them such as Iran, Pakistan and wealthy donors from the Gulf. But their financial flows last year, around 1.6 billion dollars (about 1.37 billion euros), are well below what they will need to govern.

Ajmal Ahmady, who was governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan until the return of the Taliban to power, said on Wednesday that the country has 9,000 million dollars in reserves abroad (about 7.700 million euros), but not in banknotes within its borders. Also, that the Administration Biden froze the shipment of Afghan reserves on Sunday deposited in US bank accounts. And the International Monetary Fund confirmed this Wednesday that keeps Taliban access to reserves frozen while there is no clarity about the future government.

About 7,000 of those $ 9,000 million, Ahmady published Wednesday On twitterThey are not dollar bills but bonds, assets and gold from the US Federal Reserve. He also wrote that the country’s dollar holdings were “almost nil”, because during the Taliban offensive that swept the country last week, no cash shipment scheduled for those dates was received. “The next shipment never arrived,” he says. “It seems our partners had good information about what was going to happen.”

According to Ahmady, the lack of US dollars is likely to lead to a depreciation of the Afghani, the local currency, and an increase in inflation that will particularly hurt the poor. Accessing those reserves is most likely not an easy task now that the US government is considering including the Taliban within the groups officially classified as terrorists. “The Taliban won militarily, but now they have to rule,” recalls the governor. “Is not easy”.

Opium sales

The Taliban have long been under international sanctions, and in the last five years they have used the gigantic increase in their opium sales to finance themselves. According to some experts, they have even introduced a new variety of poppy to have three harvests a year instead of two.

Two years ago, a confidential report by NATO described them as a movement that has “achieved, or is about to achieve, financial and military independence.” According to the report, achieving it will allow “the Afghan Taliban to self-finance their insurgency without the need for the support of governments or citizens of other countries.”

That goes to explain their recent successes, but the huge difference between the money they had available for their military campaign and that they will need to govern is one of the main reasons why the Taliban are said to have to put on a kinder face to the face. to the world to get support.

As John Sopko, US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said a few months ago, “it seems that even the Taliban understand Afghanistan’s dire need for foreign aid.”

In the first press conference that the Taliban group gave on Wednesday in Kabul, they promised to stop the export of narcotics from Afghanistan to “zero”. But, according to the UN World Drug Report, 84% of global opium production in 2020 was grown in the country. Most of that production took place in areas controlled by the Taliban and the group benefited from it with a 10% tax on production.

According to UN estimates, the highest levels of opium production in Afghanistan have been in three of the last four years. In 2020, poppy cultivation soared 37%.

Mining exports

In the reports prepared for the UN, NATO and the US Defense Intelligence Agency, another component appears in the financing of the Taliban: taxes on mining exports, which account for almost a third of their income. They also receive taxes from Afghans living in areas under their rule.

Analyzes show that the Taliban have continued to be among the main recipients of donations from Gulf millionaires, with an amount in excess of 240 million dollars (about 205 million euros). They have also received support from Iran.

For the Taliban, things are further complicated by threats to cut aid that have long sustained the Afghan government (and which account for 42.9% of GDP).

Germany, one of the country’s main donors, has announced its decision to disrupt their funding for the development of Afghanistan. Berlin planned to contribute 430 million euros in aid this year. Others threaten to follow the same path.

Translated by Francisco de Zárate.