As the United States withdrew militarily from Afghanistan in August, US TV news interest in the plight of the country’s citizens spiked, often focusing on ‘the horror awaiting women and girls’ (CNN Situation Room, 8/16/21) to argue against withdrawal (FAIR.org, 8/23/21). Four months later, as those same citizens have been plunged into a humanitarian crisis due in no small part to US sanctions, where is the outrage?
Experts warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in the wake of the US withdrawal (IRC, 8/20/21). In recent months, the messages have become more urgent. A UN report (10/25/21) warned that “combined shocks of drought, conflict, Covid-19 and an economic crisis in Afghanistan have left more than half the population facing a record level of acute hunger.” One million children are so malnourished they are at risk of dying in the coming months (IRC, 12/3/21).
Decades of conflict, invasion and occupation left Afghanistan with a highly precarious economy. In 2019, well before withdrawal, a record 50 percent of Afghans reported finding it ‘very difficult’ to get by on their household income (Gallup, 9/23/21). While drought and the Covid-19 pandemic have contributed to the current humanitarian crisis, it is largely driven by the imploding economy. The entire banking system is collapsing, with government employees going unpaid, and citizens unable to access their money or receive funds from relatives abroad.
As many have pointed out, the Taliban shoulder some blame, having banned women from most paid jobs outside of teaching and healthcare, costing the economy up to 5 percent of its GDP (UNDP, 12/1/21). But a much bigger driver of the crisis has been the US-led sanctions on the Taliban. The US occupation left Afghanistan dependent on aid for 40 percent of its GDP and 80 percent of its budget. After withdrawal, the US froze some $9 billion of the country’s central bank reserves, and US and UN sanctions cut off the central bank from the international banking system and drastically limited the aid flowing into the country (UNDP, 12/2/21).
Despite pleas from around the globe, even, most recently, from former US military commanders in Afghanistan and dozens of members of Congress (Washington Post, 12/20/21), the Biden administration has made only slight tweaks to its policies, which are ostensibly meant to punish and provide leverage over the Taliban, but, like other supposedly targeted sanctions, have the effect of putting millions of civilian lives in peril.
Since November 1, well into the worsening crisis, FAIR identified only 37 TV news segments from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC that mentioned ‘humanitarian’ in the same sentence as Afghanistan. That’s 37 segments in seven weeks.
For perspective, as the US withdrew in August, journalists from those shows mentioned ‘women’s rights’ in the same sentence as Afghanistan more often – 42 times – in just seven days. Today, as those women and girls face starvation, the deeply concerned TV reporters are virtually nowhere to be seen.
Excerpted: ‘Corporate Media Ignore US Sanctions Driving Starvation Threat in Afghanistan’Julie Hollar, "Ignoring US sanctions," The News. 2021-12-29.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Humanitarian crisis , Economic crisis , Taliban , Healthcare , Pandemic , United States , Afghanistan , UNDP , CBS , NBC