Afghanistan needs helping hand, not sanctions, for reconstruction
Published: Nov 01, 2021 06:58 PM
Afghanistan needs helping hand, not sanctions, for reconstruction. Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Afghanistan needs helping hand, not sanctions, for reconstruction. Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

While fulfilling its commitment of providing humanitarian assistance worth 200 million yuan ($31 million) by sending the first shipment of 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Afghanistan, China has restarted its direct air link with the war-torn Afghanistan.

Also, the first cargo plane carrying 45 tons of Afghan pine nuts flew from Kabul to Shanghai Pudong International Airport, the Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu posted on twitter on Monday. 

China is one of the largest importers of Afghan pine nuts. It launched an air transport corridor in 2018 to help Afghanistan increase its exports of dried nuts and fresh fruits to the Chinese market to address its trade deficit, according to VOA. The arrival of the first flight of Afghan pine nuts to China this year marks the restart of the air corridor.

The resumption of the air transport corridor amid the pandemic's impact on international aviation is a very positive sign for Afghanistan's struggling economy, showing that China, as an important neighboring country, is ramping up efforts to help the Afghan people to tackle humanitarian disasters and overcome economic difficulties. As ambassador Wang Yu noted, the move will greatly help Afghan farmers, while solidifying the trade ties between the two countries.

Over the past two decades, the US war on terror has ravaged Afghanistan's economy. Local economic development has become a typical "garrison economy." Many of the main sources of economic growth in the country depend on logistical services promoted by the US and other Western military forces in Afghanistan. The Afghan economy lacks internal drivers. Many projects in the country were relying on assistance from the international community. After the US military pulled out of Afghanistan in embarrassment in August, the US government, strangely, imposed sanctions on the country, freezing nearly $10 billion in assets of the Afghan Central Bank, further hitting the struggling economy.

The main cause for Afghanistan's economic predicament is the US-launched war over the past 20 years. Whoever made the trouble should take responsibility to resolve it. It is unjust and irresponsible for the US to leave the mess and shift all responsibility to the Afghan people and the neighboring countries.

Afghanistan is currently at a critical stage moving from chaos to true sovereign governance. The international community, particularly the US, should actually provide more assistance and develop economic and trade cooperation with the country to promote its economic reconstruction, rather than imposing sanctions.

Ahead of the G20's first Afghan meeting after the US withdrawal, China called for lifting all economic sanctions on Afghanistan and that billions of dollars of Afghan international assets be unfrozen and handed back to Kabul. However, the US and Britain, where many of the assets are being held, have resisted.

Worse still, China's efforts to participate in the Afghan reconstruction have become target of some ill-intentioned people in the West. Some Western media outlets are hyping that China will be filling the "vacuum" left by the US withdrawal.

From taking the lead in providing emergency assistance to Afghanistan to overcome difficulties and restarting air transport links with the country amid COVID-19, China has proved through practical actions that badmouthing cannot deter China's efforts to aid Afghanistan. It is hoped that Western powers can stop the geopolitical game and become productive players in actively supporting the people of Afghanistan to rebuild their lives.

The author is director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.