Islamic countries seek response to Afghanistan emergency

The emergency in Afghanistan, with millions facing hunger as winter sets in, has caused mounting alarm, but the international community has struggled to come up with a coordinated response.

 Afghan Taliban's Refugee & Repatriation Minister Haji Khalil ur Rahman Haqqani speaks during a meeting to mark International Migrants Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 18, 2021.  (photo credit:  REUTERS/ALI KHARA)
Afghan Taliban's Refugee & Repatriation Minister Haji Khalil ur Rahman Haqqani speaks during a meeting to mark International Migrants Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 18, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALI KHARA)

Muslim nations sought to respond to the growing economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as neighboring Pakistan opened an extraordinary meeting on Sunday of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The emergency in Afghanistan, with millions facing hunger as winter sets in, has caused mounting alarm, but the international community has struggled to come up with a coordinated response given Western reluctance to help the Taliban government, which seized power in August.

"Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos," Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his opening remarks, adding that a refugee crisis and more Islamic State violence may follow. "Chaos suits no one," he said.

The two-day meeting in Islamabad also includes representatives from the United Nations and international financial institutions, as well as from world powers including the United States, the European Union and Japan.

The Taliban's acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, is also attending, even though so far no country has officially recognized the new administration in Kabul.

 A Taliban fighter is seen as a woman arrives to receive a package being distributed by a Turkish humanitarian aid group at a distribution centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 15, 2021.  (credit:  REUTERS/ALI KHARA) A Taliban fighter is seen as a woman arrives to receive a package being distributed by a Turkish humanitarian aid group at a distribution centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 15, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ALI KHARA)

Taliban officials have asked for help to rebuild Afghanistan's shattered economy and feed more than 20 million people threatened with hunger. Some countries and aid organizations have begun delivering aid, but a near-collapse of the country's banking system has complicated their work.

Beyond immediate aid, Afghanistan needs help ensuring longer-term economic stability. Much will depend on whether Washington is willing to lift sanctions against Taliban leaders that have caused many institutions and governments to shy away from direct dealings with their government.

"They must delink the Taliban government from the 40 million Afghan citizens," Khan said.

The Taliban, who were last in power in 2001, have declared an amnesty on former government officials and said they will never allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks on other countries.

But they have faced heavy criticism for keeping women and girls out of employment and education, excluding broad sections of Afghan society from government and have been accused of trampling on human rights as well as targeting former officials despite their promise of amnesty.