Mon, 25 Sep 2023

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe for free, click here.

I'm Malali Bashir, senior editor for women's programs at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

Millions of impoverished Afghans are bearing the brunt of receding international aid to Afghanistan, the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

International organizations operating in the country have been forced to cut their assistance to Afghans in the fields of health care and food aid in recent months, largely due to funding shortages.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) said last week that it would cut emergency assistance to 2 million vulnerable Afghans by the end of the month because of a 'massive funding shortage.'

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross stopped funding 25 hospitals across Afghanistan on August 31, citing a lack of resources.

The drop in foreign assistance has directly impacted the lives of Afghans, many of whom are reeling from the devastating economic impact of the Taliban's seizure of power in 2021.

'We used to survive on food assistance [from the WFP],' Zarmina, a resident of the northern province of Parwan, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. 'But now this assistance has been cut off and my situation is dire.'

Zarmina, 27, is the sole breadwinner for her family of six. She said her family received around 4,000 afghanis ($50) worth of food handouts every six weeks from the WFP.

'There's no work for me,' she said. 'It's very difficult. What are we going to do?'

Why It's Important: Declining international assistance will worsen the devastating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Around 6 million people -- out of a population of around 40 million -- are already on the brink of starvation, according to the UN.

Wahidullah Amani, the spokesperson for the WFP in Afghanistan, told Radio Azadi that the lack of aid will specifically affect women and children, the most vulnerable segments of society.

'My children suffer from malnourishment because they don't have enough food to eat,' Hamidullah, a resident of the southeastern province of Khost, told Radio Azadi.

'All Afghans have the same problem. We ask all humanitarian organizations to help Afghans,' added Hamidullah, who is the head of an extended family of 20.

What's Next: The cash-strapped Taliban government, which is unrecognized and under international sanctions, appears unable or unwilling to alleviate the economic and humanitarian crisis in the country.

Some Afghans have called on the militant group to do more to create employment opportunities and deliver food to the most needy. 'The government should solve these problems and provide a chance for people to find work,' said Samiullah, a resident of the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The Week's Best Stories

Afghanistan has seen a surge in the number of female suicides since the Taliban takeover, making the country one of the few in the world where more women take their own lives than men. The spike comes amid the Taliban's severe restrictions on women's lives, including their right to education and employment.

What To Keep An Eye On

China has become the first country to formally name a new ambassador to Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.

The Chinese envoy presented his credentials to the Taliban's prime minister at a ceremony in Kabul on September 13.

The Taliban government has not been recognized by any country in the world. It was unclear if Beijing's appointment was a step towards formal recognition.

'This is the normal rotation of China's ambassador to Afghanistan, and is intended to continue advancing dialogue and cooperation between China and Afghanistan,' China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Why It's Important: It is unclear if the appointment signals China's growing interest in Afghanistan.

After the Taliban takeover, there was a surge in Chinese traders visiting Afghanistan to explore business opportunities and ink deals. The Taliban has boasted of Beijing's interest in expanding trade and investing billions of dollars in Afghanistan's mining sector.

But experts have said that China's relationship with the Taliban has been limited and largely transactional.

Experts said Beijing's primary concern in Afghanistan is the threat posed by members of the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an Uyghur extremist group. The Taliban has been accused of sheltering the militants.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at

Until next time,

Malali Bashir

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe for free here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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