When I read this news, it broke my heart: an Afghan mother sold one of her newborn twins, a baby boy, to a childless couple for $104. She had no food for her baby boy or her seven other children. Her husband works as a day laborer, earning only $1 a day.
No mother wants to be separated from her child this way unless she has absolutely no other choice. She told a reporter: “It was hard. Harder than you can imagine. I gave my child away because of destitution… I was unable to take care of him, and I could not afford anything.”
Even more tragic is many mothers in Afghanistan have done the same, and many more will have to because the country is experiencing what a United Nations official calls ”the worst humanitarian crisis we’ve ever seen.”
After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, the Taliban, an Islamist terrorist group that never governed a nation and doesn’t know how to run an economy, took charge in Afghanistan. Between that and international COVID lockdowns that have especially devastated poor countries that depend on rich countries’ economies, Afghanistan’s economy collapsed.
To prevent funds from getting into the wrong hands, foreign governments and agencies cut off non-humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and froze about $10 billion of the Afghan government’s assets held abroad. Aid organizations tried to get cash into the hands of everyday Afghan people, but the Taliban forbids Afghans from using foreign currencies.
The nation is experiencing a cash shortage, which has worsened the nation’s economic decline. The International Monetary Fund estimates Afghanistan could see its economy contract by 30 percent and 97 percent of the population are at risk of falling below the poverty line.
Besides a falling economy, several Afghan regions suffered severe drought. A cold winter is around the corner. The BBC reports, “Before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August, there was confidence that the government of President Ashraf Ghani would be able to cope with the threat of a bad winter, given the help of the international community. That help evaporated when Mr Ghani’s government collapsed.”
Consequently, almost 24 million Afghan people are facing starvation. The inflation in food prices and fuel prices also means it will cost more for aid agencies to purchase and ship food to Afghanistan.
Many desperate Afghanistan families are resorting to selling their children to feed the rest of the families. Most kids sold are girls, and some as young as nine years old. Often these girls are sold as brides to much older men.
Many of these girls used to go to school and had bright futures ahead. After the Taliban took over the country, it banned girls from getting an education. The Islamist group said it was working on getting girls back to school when it came to power in August. But four months have passed, and there is still no plan announced.
While the Taliban is primarily responsible for the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the Biden administration bears responsibility too. The misery Afghan people are experiencing could have been lessened if the United States hadn’t retreated so abruptly in August.
We often hear about the mistakes the United States made while occupying Afghanistan in the last 20 years, and yes, the mistakes were plenty: the lack of clarity of our mission, the lack of understanding and of the political dynamics of tribal culture, the reliance on corrupt local officials, turning blind eyes on child sexual abuses by Afghan security forces, and training the Afghan military to become overly dependent on U.S. airpower.
While these mistakes were real and costly, we often fail to acknowledge America’s accomplishments in Afghanistan. Under the U.S. occupation, the Afghan economy grew; girls went to schools and played sports; women joined the workforce and became judges, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and business professionals.
The U.S. homeland hasn’t experienced another terrorist attack by radical Islamists from Afghanistan. Afghanistan was on the right track, thanks to the sacrifice of U.S. military men and women and the generosity of U.S. taxpayers.
Yet President Biden chose an arbitrary deadline to withdraw the U.S. military from Afghanistan regardless of either the cost or consequences. The immediate outcome of his decision was a chaotic and humiliating U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which led to 13 U.S. service members killed in multiple terrorist attacks. Thousands of American citizens and Afghans who helped the U.S. military were also stranded.
Since the beginning of his presidency, President Biden has talked about how he would reclaim American values, including “defending freedom, championing opportunity, and upholding universal rights.” But there is a huge gap between his rhetoric and actions, and his retreat from Afghanistan is a prime example. To an Afghan mother who had to sell one of her children to feed her family, President Biden’s talk of values must ring both empty and pathetic.