Iranian aid being loaded on a transport plane for Afghanistan. October 5, 2021

Taliban is Diverting Iran’s Aid, Conservative Newspaper Says

10/9/2021

A conservative newspaper in Iran has suggested the Taliban is misusing Tehran’s aid, highlighting varying views in Iran on Afghanistan’s new rulers.

"Currently available information indicate that the aid sent by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which the terrorist Taliban group receives, is used as the group wishes and according to its needs and does not reach to those in real need," an editorial opined Saturday.

The Jomhuri Eslami (Islamic Republic) newspaper suggested that humanitarian assistance be sent directly to regions facing the worst crisis, directly by air to Bamiyan in central Afghanistan for instance, to ensure it reached those in need. It would be possible to supervise the distribution only if Iranian supervisors were there alongside local authorities to prevent misuse, the paper wrote.

In referring to the Taliban as ‘terrorists,’ Jomhuri Eslami differs from Kayhan newspaper, which has in recent months suggested the Taliban has changed over the past 20 years. Both Kayhan and Jomhuri Eslami, despite declining circulations, are influential in Iranian conservative and hardliner political circles.

In June a Kayhan commentary noted that the Taliban was no longer committing the same kind of sectarian crimes against Afghan Shiites and had stopped beheadings. But many in Iran, including some influential senior Shiite clerics, are skeptical of the Taliban and its pledges not to harm Afghanistan's Shiite minority.

The Iranian government and Red Crescent have sent several shipments of humanitarian aid to Kabul by air and land since September 15, when the first shipment of food was flown to the country in the same flight taking Iranian diplomats back to the Afghan capital.

The latest shipment, flown to Afghanistan October 5, included 50 tons of food and medicine, blankets and similar items needed for winter. On October 5, 94 tons of food and sanitary items, and 22 tons of oxygen capsules for use in hospitals, arrived by land.

The UN refugee agency said on Saturday the world should urgently provide promised aid to Afghanistan, warning that a lack of resources is hampering efforts to avert an economic crisis that could push fresh flows of refugees to its neighbors and beyond.

"The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan remains really dire," Babar Baloch, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in an interview in Islamabad.

"The focus has to be inside Afghanistan to avoid and avert another refugee crisis."

An official of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) said last month that the agency had asked for $200m in emergency aid to deliver food to Afghanistan's vulnerable people before winter.

According to the WFP, one in three Afghans faces severe hunger and 95 percent of families lack sufficient food. Countries prepared to offer humanitarian aid are concerned the Taliban would might seize the aid supplies and should not decide which regions or groups received it.

External funding for Afghanistan has been suspended since the Western military withdrawal from Kabul and the takeover of the central government by the Taliban on August 15. Wracked by corruption and nepotism, the US-backed authorities had relied on the US and other western donors for 80 percent of their budget.

The Taliban have offered the UN assurances on the safe passage and freedom of movement of humanitarian workers. While still considering whether to recognize the Taliban government, the US and other donors have pledged more than $1 billion in interim aid, a sum far short of the $100 billion a year the US spent on its 20-year war effort in the country.

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