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EU pulls Afghanistan funding, will only work with Taliban if human rights respected

EU pulls Afghanistan funding, will only work with Taliban if human rights respected
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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – AUGUST 18: Afghans continue to wait at Kabul International Airport as thousands of Afghans rush to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, on August 18, 2021.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

LONDON — The European Union has suspended development funding to Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the war-torn country . 

The news comes as European leaders focus on evacuating European from Kabul, and Afghan citizens have helped the bloc over the past two decades.

Germany and Finland had announced earlier on Tuesday that they were stopping development aid for the time being, with the EU’s foreign affairs chief confirming a wider move to stop funding later that evening.

“No payments are going on to Afghanistan right now. No payments of development assistance until we clarify the situation,” Josep Borrell said.

Speaking at a press conference late Tuesday, he said: “We have to see first what kind of government the Taliban are going to organize.”

In November, the EU had promised to donate 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) over the next four years in both long-term and emergency assistance. These funds were conditional on Afghan authorities preserving democratic pluralism, the rule of law and human rights.

Read more on the developments in Afghanistan:

Last year, Germany pledged 430 million euros in civilian assistance between 2021 and 2024 on the basis that a peaceful resolution to the civil war would take place. The United States, at the time, also committed to spend $600 million in aid to Afghanistan for 2021, according to data from Deutsche Welle.

The Taliban have won the war.

Josep Borrell

EU foreign affairs chief

Data from the U.N. humanitarian aid coordination agency showed that even before the advance of the Taliban in recent weeks, some 18.4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. Borrell stressed during the press conference that the funds being suspended were different from humanitarian aid, which the EU intends to keep providing.

Arsla Jawaid, an analyst at consultancy Control Risks, told CNBC Tuesday that the Taliban are likely to form a government which includes non-Taliban members “in order to keep financial and foreign assistance lines open.”

Not official recognition

The crisis in Afghanistan raises questions about the EU’s influence around the world, its relationship with the United States and ultimately how it will deal with any influx of refugees.

For the time being, the EU’s Borrell said it is crucial to develop dialogue with the Taliban to ensure that evacuations from Kabul are successful.

“We have to get in touch with authorities in Kabul … whatever they are. The Taliban have won the war,” he said, while adding that this “is not a matter of official recognition, it is a matter of dealing with (them).”

After a meeting of foreign affairs ministers, Borrell said in a statement: “The EU calls on all parties in Afghanistan to respect all commitments made and to pursue further an inclusive, comprehensive and enduring political solution. The protection and promotion of all human rights, in particular those of women and girls, must be an integral part of these efforts and women should be supported and able to contribute fully to this process.”

For their part, in their first press conference since taking Kabul, the Taliban claimed that women’s rights will be respected “within the framework of Islamic law” — a vague parameter given the extreme interpretation of the religion that the group is known for.

Meanwhile, the head of the Afghan central bank, Ajmal Ahmady, who has fled the country, has detailed how it’s unlikely that the Taliban will manage to get hold of the former government’s $10 billion in assets.

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