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IMF Warns Of 'Looming Humanitarian Crisis' In Afghanistan

Afghans outside a bank as they try to withdraw money in Kabul on September 12.

The International Monetary Fund says it is deeply concerned with economic conditions in Afghanistan -- warning that the country faces a "looming humanitarian crisis" just a month after Taliban militants toppled the internationally backed government in Kabul.

Despite the concerns, however, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on September 16 that the global lender's engagement with Afghanistan remains suspended. That means that IMF funding to Afghanistan is on hold.

Rice told journalists in Washington that the immediate focus should be on helping the Afghan people by allowing the flow of remittances and small-scale transfers, and by providing aid to countries that are hosting Afghan refugees.

Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan's economy was extremely fragile. Propped up for 20 years by foreign aid, about 40 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product (GDP) was the result of international assistance.

But since the Taliban seized control of Kabul on August 15, foreign donors have suspended aid to Afghanistan -- saying disbursements are contingent on the behavior of the new Taliban-led government, which has not been recognized by any country.

In addition to the IMF, the World Bank and foreign governments also have suspended aid payments to Afghanistan since the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15.

Ordinary bank transfers to individuals in Afghanistan have also been blocked. That has left ordinary Afghans reeling from rocketing inflation, rising poverty, cash shortages, a plummeting currency, and rising unemployment.

Some $9 billion in foreign reserves of Afghanistan’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), also has been frozen -- most of it held in the United States.

Ajmal Ahmady, the former DAB governor who fled Kabul after the Taliban takeover, told RFE/RL that he expects all of the country's dire economic indicators to “worsen.”

The IMF's warning on September 16 also echoes remarks by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said two weeks earlier that Afghanistan faces a “humanitarian catastrophe” and a complete collapse of basic services under Taliban rule.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, Reuters, and AP