China Sends Afghanistan Food, Winter Supplies as Country Remains Cash-Strapped

As the international community waits to see whether the Taliban will again impose harsh rule before deciding about resuming aid to Afghanistan, China delivered winter supplies Wednesday night to the cash-strapped nation, the Associated Press reported.

China, the "friendly neighbor" that shares a border with Afghanistan, plans to send more shipments of food and supplies soon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Thursday.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Regional Director Alexander Matheou said Afghanistan faces an "extremely difficult few months" as low winter temperatures start, cuts to health services endanger citizens, food shortages rage, and drought and poverty plague the country.

"There needs to be some solution to the financial flows into Afghanistan to ensure that at least salaries can be paid, and that essential supplies, power, and water being two of them, can be procured," Matheou said.

Afghanistan has been cut off from disbursement of money from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the U.S., which froze assets held in American accounts by the Afghan Central Bank, leaving the country without billions of dollars. According to a World Bank report, this cutoff has been devastating, as nearly 75 percent of Afghanistan's public expenditure comes from foreign aid.

Cuts not only left Afghans without proper health care but have resulted in 2,500 facilities being shut down, and over 20,000 health care workers not being paid, according to Matheou.

The IFRC is striving to fund health clinics, emergency relief and other services. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric also asked donors to fund a $606 million flash appeal that could help 11 million people in Afghanistan for the remainder of the year. The appeal is only 22 percent funded.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghanistan recieves supplies from neighbor, China
China delivered winter supplies to cash-strapped Afghanistan on Wednesday night. Above, Afghans cross a bridge above the Kabul river in Kabul on September 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) Felipe Dana/Associated Press

The Taliban on Thursday ordered their fighters to leave private homes they had taken over during last month's blitz when the group seized control of Afghanistan, an apparent effort to impose order among Taliban ranks.

Meanwhile, in the capital of Kabul, the Taliban fired shots to disperse a women's rally demanding equal rights while Matheou warned that Afghanistan was sliding into a deep "major humanitarian crisis" with the coming winter and severe financial shortfalls.

The order by Taliban Prime Minister Hasan Akhund followed recent public statements by Taliban officials hinting at plans to improve organization and marshal fighters. It said Taliban members belonging to the militant group's defense, interior and intelligence agencies who are living in private homes need to "report back to military bases" across the country.

In recent weeks, the Taliban abandoned their traditional, civilian dress and donned military fatigues to project an air of authority. Bilal Karimi, a Taliban security official, confirmed the directive to AP.

The Afghan army abandoned most of its positions or surrendered to the Taliban during the August blitz, allowing Taliban fighters to take over military bases as well.

In Kabul on Thursday, the Taliban fired shots to disperse a small rally of six women outside a local school, demanding equal rights to education. They confiscated posters held by the women that read: "Do not burn our books!"

Other women coming to join the protest in the Kart-e-Char neighborhood were later told to go home, according to a witness who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing Taliban reprisal. Mawlawi Nasratullah, a Taliban official, later told reporters women had not asked for permission to rally.

Since their takeover, the Taliban have violently dispersed rallies by women demanding that the rights they had gained in the past 20 years in Afghanistan not be taken away. When they last ruled the country in the 1990s, the Taliban had imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law or Sharia, banishing women to their homes and denying them the right to education, work and a public life.

China has mocked the chaotic end to the U.S. presence in the country, and said Washington was to blame for the intensified hardships now facing the impoverished country under Taliban rule. Beijing has kept its embassy in Kabul open and established diplomatic ties with the Taliban.

Matheou said the diplomatic missions that have remained in Kabul after the Taliban takeover have taken a pragmatic approach "to the reality as it stands now" on a Taliban-run Afghanistan. The IFRC envoy also met with representatives from Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey and Russia in Kabul.

Afghanistan recieves supplies from neighbor, China
China delivered winter supplies to cash-strapped Afghanistan on Wednesday night. Above, a street vendor sells Taliban and Afghan flags on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) Bernat Armangue/Associated Press