DUBAI, October 23 (Reuters) – Afghanistan is heading for economic collapse that risks spiraling the country into a new political crisis, warned Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation on Saturday.
Afghanistan has been in crisis following the collapse of the Western-backed government and the takeover of the Taliban in August, which was hit by an abrupt end to billions of dollars in aid to its aid-dependent economy.
“My concern is that the country is on the verge of collapse and that the collapse is coming faster than we thought,” Per Olsson Fridh told Reuters in Dubai, warning that an economic free fall could provide an environment for terrorist groups to thrive.
The European Union of 27 countries, including Sweden, has increased humanitarian aid to Afghanistan since the Taliban swept back to power but has stopped its development aid, a measure taken by many other countries and the World Bank.
On Friday, the Red Cross called on the international community to engage with the Taliban and warned that aid groups could only provide temporary solutions on their own.
Sweden was looking at scaling up efforts by Afghan civil society groups to secure basic services, Fridh said, but that other countries must be convinced that this was possible without legitimizing the new Taliban rulers.
But Sweden would not channel development money through the Taliban, he said. The movement has faced international criticism for its failure to uphold certain rights since returning to power, including giving girls access to education.
Most countries have closed their embassies in Kabul and some have moved them to Qatar, the Gulf state which is an important dialogue partner between the West and the Taliban.
European countries were not ready to reopen their Kabul embassies, Fridh said, adding that more diplomatic missions would be opened in Qatar before a return to Afghanistan.
Reporting by Alexander Cornwell Editing by Ros Russell
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