US ramps up efforts to assist Afghanistan amid withdrawal
Washington [US]: After the meeting between US President Joe Biden, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, the White House on Friday announced a series of measures to provide assistance to the South Asian country amid troop withdrawal.
In a fact-sheet, the White House said: "Our strong support and partnership is designed to prevent Afghanistan from ever again being used as a safe haven for terrorism, maintain Afghan stability and build self-reliance, promote economic growth, preserve social gains in education, health and women's empowerment and the rule of law, protect the rights of women, girls, and minorities, bolster Afghan civil society, and respond to humanitarian needs."
As part of its strategy to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world, the US has pledged to donate three million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the people of Afghanistan through the COVAX facility. COVAX is working to ship these doses to Afghanistan.
Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is also supporting Afghan efforts to respond to the critical shortfalls in oxygen and medical ventilation support by providing emergency and structural assistance. To strengthen this effort, the USAID has ordered over 300 oxygen cylinders and several months' worth of ventilator consumables to be shipped to Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
The USAID also plans to install oxygen plants in four hospitals that will serve smaller facilities in the surrounding areas. USAID recently committed USD 38 million in emergency COVID-19 supplemental funding to the UN World Food Program (WFP) to address the food and nutrition needs of approximately 1.2 million COVID-impacted vulnerable people in Afghanistan.
With this funding, WFP will reach more than 164,000 children and nearly 28,000 pregnant and lactating women with essential moderate acute malnutrition treatment.
The US recently announced more than USD 266 million in new humanitarian assistance to address the pressing needs of an estimated 18 million people in Afghanistan, including more than 4.8 million internally displaced Afghans. This funding will allow our partners to provide lifesaving protection, shelter, livelihood opportunities, essential health care, emergency food aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services to respond to the needs generated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, read the fact-sheet.
The US Department of Defense's Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) will provide financial support to the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Afghan Air Force and the Afghan Special Security Forces, including the Special Mission Wing. Congress appropriated over USD 3 billion to ASFF in 2021 and Biden has requested over USD 3.3 billion for 2022.
"As part of our commitment to invest in and support the Afghan people, the United States has recently announced an additional USD 300 million in civilian assistance for Afghanistan in 2021 through both the Department of State and USAID. The President has also requested an additional USD 364 million in development assistance for the State Department and USAID for 2022," said the White House.
The Biden administration has also pledged to mobilise diplomatic support for peace and stability in Afghanistan. It urged all Afghan parties to engage urgently and meaningfully in peace talks aimed at achieving a just and durable settlement that includes protections for the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities.
The US will encourage our partners to continue their security and development assistance, including through the Afghan National Army Trust Fund (ANATF), Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). It will also work closely with other major donors to ensure continued development and humanitarian assistance to help the Afghan people.
The visit comes amid the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Ghani and Abdullah are likely to discuss how the United States and Afghanistan will continue to work together in the future.
Biden had earlier announced that the US will start its final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan on May 1 and complete its pullout ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The withdrawal could be well ahead of the deadline. (ANI)