(Photo credit: Daily Sabah)
The World Bank announced on 30 March that it had put four of its Afghanistan projects on hold after the Taliban issued an order preventing girls from attending secondary schools.
The projects, headed by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), were intended to support education, agriculture, health, and family programs in Afghanistan, bypassing the sanctions on Taliban authorities and providing aid through UN agencies, including UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The World Bank said the projects will be presented to ARTF donors, but will only be approved “when the World Bank and international partners have a better understanding of the situation and confidence that the goals of the projects can be met.”
As a result of the Taliban decision to close down schools for girls, the US cancelled an upcoming round of talks with the organization that were set to take place in the Qatari capital Doha.
The $600 million in aid programs were announced last month, and came after $280 million frozen Afghan funds were successfully disbursed through the World Food Programme and UNICEF.
In the weeks after this initial disbursement, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to free up the remaining $1.2 billion frozen ARTF funds to help Afghans face deteriorating economic conditions.
Since the Taliban victory against the US-backed Afghan army last year, the country has faced a severe humanitarian crisis due to the US action of freezing nearly $10 billion in Afghan foreign reserves.
According to a UN report released on 15 March, 95 percent of Afghans do not have sufficient access to food.
The Taliban decision to shut down girls high schools has also sparked international concern that the group is not willing to stick to its promises regarding the education of women.
Just days after this announcement, the Taliban issued a ban preventing women from travel without the presence of a male guardian.
Iran and China have both expressed interest in normalizing relations with the Taliban but have also made it clear they are monitoring the Taliban’s adherence to their pledges as a condition for partnership.