Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. World
  2. Asia
15 October 2021

Can G20 leaders keep their promise to prevent economic collapse in Afghanistan?

Saving the country from economic ruin will be difficult without normalising the Taliban's hold on power.

By Emily Tamkin

G20 leaders this week pledged that Afghanistan would not crumble into economic catastrophe following the US withdrawal from the country in the summer. Angela Merkel, outgoing chancellor of Germany, said that Afghanistan shouldn’t be allowed to “descend into chaos”.

What remains unclear, though, is how, exactly, the G20 leaders intend to prevent such a descent.

For one thing, the United Nations told the world leaders it should pour billions into the country. At present, money is mostly coming through in the millions (though the EU did pledge €1bn). The funding is going to international organisations on the ground. Aid that would go to the Afghan government, such as EU development aid, is still frozen

That’s because world leaders do not want to normalise lending to the Taliban (save for Beijing, which has called for exactly that to happen). Joe Biden reiterated at the G20 that he did not believe that aid should be given directly to the group. But as I argued in September, some degree of Taliban buy-in is needed to avoid Afghanistan’s economic collapse. The Taliban are in power at this point. The main goal can be either to avoid normalising the group or to save the country from economic ruin, but it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve both at once. 

Meanwhile, Russia, which was not at the G20 discussion, set up regional talks for next week. Unlike at the G20, the Taliban will be present.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

[see also: Exclusive polling: majority of British voters do not think Afghanistan mission was a success]

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them
Topics in this article: , ,