Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

The Taliban are abusing Western aid, not just women

By Lynne O’Donnell

30 Dec 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

According to Foreign Policy's analysis, Afghanistan's rulers are stealing from the millions of dollars that are sent to stave off mass starvation, fueling concerns of a return to organized drug crime.

The Taliban’s shocking treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan has been capturing global headlines since the Islamists regained power and began winding the clock back to the last time they controlled the country. As outrage at the latest abuses reverberates around the world, their extreme misogyny may be masking the misuse of millions of dollars in aid that is meant to ease terrible human suffering.

Tens of millions of dollars are flown into Kabul every week by the United States and the United Nations for distribution across the country as humanitarian catastrophe grips tighter with winter closing in. Sources inside and outside the country say much of the money never reaches those who need it. Instead, they say, unknown quantities are stolen by the Taliban and diverted to their own causes, keeping supporters onside with handouts of cash and food and funding the private operations of senior leaders. Some sources in the security and charity sectors say the Taliban use the informal hawala money transfer system to benefit from a global shortage of dollars.

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