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Afghanistan faces hunger, economic collapse, other crises one year after Taliban's return

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Taliban supporters distribute sweets during a demonstration in support of the first anniversary of the Taliban rule in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Monday. Photo by Shekib Mohammadyl/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/28d9c099984db920d34f4175c8355b62/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Taliban supporters distribute sweets during a demonstration in support of the first anniversary of the Taliban rule in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Monday. Photo by Shekib Mohammadyl/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The Taliban on Monday celebrated the one-year anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan after U.S. forces ended a 20-year campaign, but experts say the country is dealing with multiple crises, including a spiraling economy and deterioration of women's rights.

U.S. forces were caught off-guard by how rapidly the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan against U.S.-backed Afghan troops amid the withdrawal.

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The departure, which included a suicide bombing by Islamic State-K that killed 13 Marines, started a slide of support for U.S. President Joe Biden.

But the Taliban, under sanctions from the United States and other Western countries, have since struggled to govern the country -- leaving much of it in crisis over the past 12 months. Those sanctions have harmed average Afghans, Samira Sayed Rahman of the International Rescue Committee said.

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"The sanctions that have been placed on the Taliban, a few hundred people in power," Rahman told NPR. "But 38 million people are suffering."

The West sought to punish the Taliban for going back on the agreement negotiated with the United States for its evacuation, including working with the U.S.-backed Afghan government for transition leadership and protection of human rights, particularly for women.

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Women immediately started to disappear from public life after the Taliban's return and many girls have been denied the education they had access to under the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Taliban fighters stand guard in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 17, 2021, during the U.S. withdrawal of forces. File Photo by Bashir Darwish/UPI

"Women are deprived of all of their human rights, including the right to work, the right to political involvement, the right to education and the right to civil freedoms," Fawzia Kofi, head of the Mawj-e-Tahawul-e-Afghanistan party, said, according to Tolo News.

With the absence of new foreign aid, Afghanistan's economy has plummeted since the Taliban takeover. Per capital income in the country declined by a third over the final four months of 2021. Over that time, fewer than 40% of Afghan homes had enough money to pay for food -- while about a third could buy food, but nothing else.

"It goes to show the Taliban prioritizes ideological issues over practical issues like getting assistance and recognition," Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, said, according to NBC News.

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"If the world is so disgusted at Taliban policies that it does not want to entertain the idea of providing assistance to the government, it's the Afghan people who will lose out the most."

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The humanitarian crisis has become so great in Afghanistan that Human Rights Watch has called for some easing of the Western sanctions to help struggling Afghan civilians.

"Afghanistan's intensifying hunger and health crisis is urgent and at its root a banking crisis," John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement earlier this month.

"Regardless of the Taliban's status or credibility with outside governments, international economic restrictions are still driving the country's catastrophe and hurting the Afghan people."

Scenes from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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