As part of the 21st annual Warwick Economics Summit, the Afghanistan Panel featured a riveting discussion between Ronald E. Neumann, Sami Samar, and Rabia Nasimi, which was chaired by Paul Wood and broadcasted live to our virtual audience on 4th February, 2022.
Below, you will find our official Summit Press Release for the event, which summarises the speech's highlights, and is accompanied by a collection of the very best quotes from the Afghanistan Panel at WES 2022.
Friday, 4th February, the first day of Warwick Economics Summit 2022, drew to a close with the first panel discussion of the conference, addressing the latest developments in the Middle East. Ronald E. Neumann, United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sami Samar, Women and Human Rights Advocate and Former Minister of Women Affairs in Afghanistan, and Rabia Nasimi, Policy Lead at DLUHC, joined the conversation on the way forward for Afghanistan, discussing how to deal with the worry of famine. The discussion was chaired by Paul Wood of the BBC.
All three panellists highlighted that the care and support (such as the work of the UN and WHO) directed into Afghanistan requires more effective and coordinated delivery mechanisms, so as to avoid their leakage into the Taliban regime. Simply sending money into the country equates with "legitimising their power," and allows for rampant corruption.
Rabia Nasimi strongly underscored the significance of connections with local authorities or foreign support channels, in securing one's survival in the poverty-stricken country. Reliance on personal and market accumulation in insufficient if not impossible in the current conditions that plague Afghanistan - conditions which prove the uncertainty surrounding the future of the country.
Sima Samar spoke personally of her own friends, who ask her how they can escape the country, given their feelings of helplessness against the new regime. Ronald E. Neumann went on to note that the question of how long the Taliban regime will be able to sustain itself depends largely on the morale of Afghan citizens. International support must demonstrate, he said, that there is hope for a better future, so that the willingness to fight is restored on the ground.
With that achieved, Rabia Nasimi hopes to see a more coordinated action from Afghan citizens - the lack of which appears to be another root of the instability in the country. Demand for the equal treatment of women, and their equal access to education and healthcare, and meaningful voice in public debate, will maximise the impact of support from the outside, as well as offer a more secure and promising way forward. Ultimately, however, these things will not be secured without very carefully coordinated aid and intervention.
"Afghanistan is a collective failure. We will pay a very heavy price - much more than we have already. (...) The international community has not done enough to hold [the Taliban] responsible." (Sami Samar)
"We should not really have the patience that we had for corruption. We should not allow some people to become so rich, because of the suffering of children and women in the country." (Sami Samar)
"We shouldn't allow free money to be in control of the Taliban. This gives them appreciation that they are in control of the country. (...) We are legitimising their power if money goes through the Taliban. We need to be very careful; we have already let them grow in some ways. We have to stop them from legitimising as leaders. (...) They have learned to speak English. They are talking to international media to show educational progress - but that is a false impression of them being open to change. We are in the centre of a humanitarian crisis. (...) The Taliban on the TV are very different from the Taliban on the ground." (Rabia Nasimi)
"Exchange rates are higher than ever. Prices of daily goods have doubled. Even if there is food available, who can afford it? If people are under poverty, are they going to think about survival first or about changing a regime? (...) There is a humanitarian crisis. We need to bring back energy to people, so that there is ambition to make a change. Only then can we discuss the change of regime." (Rabia Nasimi)
"I think the root of the problem is not necessarily the international community not being coordinated; it is about the Afghan people not being coordinated. Have we really wanted to become a more united nation? Or have we tried to develop our close networks really well, and pull the money into places where potentially it wasn't needed as much?" (Rabia Nasimi)
"Why did the [American] soldiers stop fighting? It is about the loss of morale. America had no plan on how to encourage them to keep fighting. The message was: they were left abandoned." (Ronald E. Neumann)
"The core activity of nation-building is trying to build-up Afghan security. Nevertheless, we didn't start building the police until 2006. We said that the Germans can do that. It took me six months of building pressure to get the first bit of money transferred to police equipment, and we had a completely bogus, busted system." (Ronald E. Neumann)
Press release written by Natalia Tronina and Ingrid Bahnemann
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