Taliban extortion in Ghor forces NGOs to halt operations
Local authorities ask for 30 per cent of food or money meant for the population. Provincial officials make contradictory statements; one admits that NGO employees are asked for a portion of their salaries. Meanwhile, life for Afghans gets more complicated.
Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Humanitarian organisations have halted their operations in Ghor, a province in central Afghanistan, after the Taliban started demanding 30 per cent of all the food or cash aid meant for the population, this according to Amu TV, one of the few remaining independent news agencies in the country, citing an anonymous source.
“A [Taliban] committee visits the organisations to collect money,” the source explained, demanding, “they hand over 30 per cent of money or food, which is supposed to be distributed to the people in humanitarian aid, and say it’s for the reconstruction of the [Ghor to Herat] road.”
Because of this, another source said, several NGOs are not willing to continue their work since their task is to work “for the people of Afghanistan based on plans”, i.e. providing food and fuel to enable people to get through the winter.
A source with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed the story, noting that this is not the first time the Taliban tried to get humanitarian agencies to give them part of the aid.
In “many districts of Ghor, [the Taliban have] taken back food and non-food aid that was distributed to the people, using the excuse of building a road,” the WFP source explained.
This kind of extortion by the Taliban is particularly noticeable in the districts of Du Layna and Pasaband and in parts of the city of Firozkoh.
Meanwhile, poverty, unemployment, cold weather (which has already claimed several lives) and now the suspension of humanitarian aid are complicating life for most Afghans, in particular, for internally displaced people in Ghor.
“I came here because of poverty, there is neither work nor income,” said Ibrahim, one of the displaced, speaking to Amu TV.
“It’s been three years that my wife, myself, and our three children have relied on the help of organisations to survive,” he said. “After the Taliban stopped the aid [distributed] by the agencies … come and see, we have nothing to eat and [nothing to] heat our home.”
So far, the Taliban’s response has been contradictory. A spokesman for Ghor provincial governor said that Taliban authorities have never extorted money from the agencies, claiming instead that NGOs are making excuses for stopping aid distribution more than a month ago.
However, the head of the local Department of Information and Culture said that “employees who work for organisations in Ghor have been requested to dedicate [a percentage of] their salaries”.
On several occasions, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stated that since the Taliban seized power in August 2021 and international bank transfers were halted, all money coming to Afghanistan is deposited in UN accounts held in private banks and used by UN agencies exclusively for humanitarian purposes; nothing is handed over to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.