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G20 vows to avert humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan; EU pledges $1B in aid

G20 vows to avert humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan; EU pledges $1B in aid
Leaders of the Group of 20 nations held a virtual summit on Tuesday where they pledged to work together to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of G20/Website

Oct. 13 (UPI) -- World leaders have agreed to work together to prevent the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan from worsening with the European Union pledging more than $1 billion in aid to the Middle Eastern country and surrounding region.

The EU announced its $1.15 billion humanitarian relief package Tuesday during a virtual Group of 20 summit with President Ursula von der Leyen warning world leaders that they must do all they can to prevent the socio-economic collapse of Afghanistan.

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"We need to do it fast," she said in a statement.

The war-torn country has been veering toward a humanitarian catastrophe following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in mid-August ahead of the United States completing its military withdrawal from the nation.

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Almost immediately following, the United Nations called for urgent support for Afghanistan where nearly half of its 38 million people are in need of assistance and half of all children under the age of five are predicted to be acutely malnourish in under a year's time.

The EU package includes nearly $350 million in humanitarian aid already announced and more than $288 million for Afghans "in urgent need," all of which will go directly to support the local population through organizations on the ground.

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Additional funds will also go to neighboring nations providing safety to those fleeing Afghanistan in order to enforce their migration management systems and to prevent terrorism, organized crime and migrant smuggling.

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"The Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban's actions," she said. "This is why the Afghan support package is for the Afghan people and the country's neighbors who have been the first in providing them with help."

The pledge is significant considering the United States has provided the country with nearly $3.9 billion in humanitarian assistance since 2002, according to the White House.

During the summit on Tuesday, the world leaders agreed to wide-ranging efforts to prevent the collapse of the social and financial systems of Afghanistan and maintain the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were notably absent from the summit, which U.S. President Joe Biden attended.

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According to a readout from the White House, the world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the Afghan people through independent international organizations but made no mention of offering further funding.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters asking Tuesday if more funds to Afghanistan were planned that the United States this year has already given nearly $330 million to the country, including the $64 million announced by the U.S. Agency for International Development last month.

"We will continue to take steps to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people and call on other donors to step up their contributions to help deliver assistance," she said, stating the United States was Afghanistan's largest donor.

The summit occurred after the United States and the Taliban held over the weekend their first diplomatic talks since the completion of the U.S. military withdrawal at the end of August, with the new leaders of Afghanistan stating Washington would provide Afghans with aid.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who hosted the summit as its current president, told reporters during a press conference following the meeting that while some of its members don't recognized the militant organization as leaders of the country, they will have to work with them to achieve their humanitarian goals.

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"It will require contact with the Taliban," he said. "There is no alternative to having contact with them. They are essential for this answer, for this response to be effective. But as you said, that doesn't imply a recognition."

The prime minister said the countries agreed that the Taliban will be judged based on their deeds, not their words.

Recognition by most of the G20 nations will be dependent upon the Taliban living up to their commitments for progress, especially concerning the rights and freedoms of women and girls.

"The government as we know, it's not really inclusive, it's not really representative," he said. "The women's rights, so far, as far as we can see, is like going back 20 years."

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