As foreign governments, aid agencies, and companies scramble to evacuate workers from Afghanistan, a key question arises: Should they engage with the ruling Taliban, or should they abandon their multi-year investment in the country and 38 million Afghans?

In the past week, the Taliban promised to maintain peaceful relations with other countries, women’s rights and independent media-but some former diplomats and scholars said that although they are more proficient in media and the Internet than the Taliban in the 1990s, some former diplomats and scholars said this The group of tough fighters is just as cruel.

In the past, the Taliban banned women from working, banned girls from going to school, and killed or destroyed dissidents in public. It also sheltered Al-Qaeda, which planned the hijacking of planes to attack New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, prompting a US-led invasion.

Robert Cruise, a professor of history at Stanford University and author of the book “Afghanistan Modern: A Global Country History” published in 2015, said that this situation presents a “paradox” for foreign aid agencies.

“If you are a rescue worker at a state hospital, you are serving a regime whose legitimacy is in balance,” he said. “But if everyone goes home, will the country collapse?”

Michael McKinley, who served as the ambassador to Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016, said that 70% to 80% of the Afghan government’s budget is funded by international donors, including the United States Agency for International Development.

Without such assistance, the country will face economic collapse.

“The Taliban will need a lot of external funding unless they retreat to what they did between 1996 and 2001, which is basically managing the government to the minimum level,” said McKinley, who now works at Cohen Group Consulting. “Relying on the drug trade does not provide them with a way to maintain power.”

Some have warned that failure to engage the Taliban internationally could trigger a greater crisis. Daniel Runde, a development expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said: “It’s a big temptation to unplug and go to a meeting, but we did it in 1989, and the 9/11 incident happened 12 years later.”

Billions of suspensions

Although foreign governments and aid groups have evacuated thousands of people, there are still multi-billion dollar projects pending, most of which come from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.

A report by the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan’s reconstruction on July 30 showed that since 2002, the United States has allocated US$145 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The World Bank is providing more than US$2 billion in funding for 27 active projects in Afghanistan, ranging from gardening to automated payment systems, part of which is more than US$5.3 billion used by development lending institutions for the country’s development and reconstruction.

The organization and the government disagree on how to deal with the Taliban [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

On Friday, a flight from Kabul landed in Islamabad, with 350 evacuees on board, including employees of the World Bank Group and other international organizations. An internal World Bank memo seen by Reuters confirmed that its staff in Kabul, including Afghan employees, had been evacuated from their immediate family members.

“Our work in Afghanistan is vital to the development of the entire region. I hope that once the situation stabilizes, we will be able to have a positive impact,” President David Malpass wrote.

The organization said in a statement that the Asian Development Bank, which also has extensive operations in Afghanistan, remains “committed to supporting Afghanistan’s economic and social development”.

Burma, which was overthrown by a military coup last year, offers some similarities. In February, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund suspended all expenditures and projects there. Although the spread of COVID-19 in the country has deteriorated, the freeze continues.

Both organizations stated that they are guided by membership when dealing with this sudden change of government, and the United States has a dominant position in both organizations.

Lack of clarity

The International Monetary Fund suspended Afghanistan’s right to receive IMF resources, including a new currency reserve of approximately US$440 million allocated by the International Monetary Fund on Monday, on the grounds that its members’ recognition of the Afghan government is not clear enough.

Companies, including large American social media companies and natural resources groups, have differences in how to deal with the Taliban. This is the epitome of the broader inconsistency in the international community’s classification of the organization.

“We should pay attention to the statements made by the Taliban leadership to a certain extent,” Runde argued. “They will have to prove that they are serious about it.”

Ryan Crocker, who served as the ambassador to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, severely criticized the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying that believing the Taliban should not be an option.

Kroc said in a blog post on the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace website: “The Taliban have regained control of the situation, and they will bring their al-Qaeda allies.” “This is not a hypothetical security threat. These are the causes. During the 9/11 incident, they did not become more friendly and gentle.”

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