Taliban takeover of Afghanistan may have been helped by US aid

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
US aid to Afghanistan may have helped Taliban takeover
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The I-Team examines how aid to Afghans that started with good intentions may have accelerated the Taliban takeover of that nation.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's now estimated about half of American aid shipments that were supposed to be used by Afghan government military forces and regular citizens were stolen and siphoned off by Taliban fighters preparing for an eventual US pullout. Experts now question the United States' responsibility going forward.

In late 2001, the ABC7 I-Team flew with the U.S. Air Force from Germany to the Afghan zone on missions aimed to helping citizens there, whose country we were also blowing up.

It would be the beginning of an unusual 20-year tactic for America's military: drop bombs, then drop food and medical supplies.

That first-of-a-kind tactic went on for two decades, with much of the well-intended aid to those who lived in Afghanistan and their Army the US was training, ending up in enemy hands.

SEE ALSO | Chaos, security questions remain after Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

A Northwestern international relations scholar says the aid that we've been sending there for two decades may actually have helped the current Taliban takeover.

"Congress has said that most of the aid the US has sent in the past several years, didn't end up with the people who need it already, but they figured that about 50% of American aid to Afghanistan in the past several years, has been siphoned off to warlords or to corruption or to fraud," said Ian Hurd, Political Science Professor at Northwestern University. "And so with the change in government in Afghanistan I think the odds of using American money to influence events and improve people's lives are pretty slim."

Now, with Taliban fighters occupying the presidential palace in Kabul and operating checkpoints on the only road to the airport, thousands of Afghan citizens are, literally, running for their lives.

The U.S. has spent almost $4 billion in humanitarian aid there since late 2001. The question is: what will happen if American aid continues?

"The real strategy will be to look for ways, without sending money, to influence the conditions of life there," Hurd said. "That begins by not making things worse for people. But the U.S. took a big step towards that this week by ending its military operations and stopping bombing and various kinds of military activity."

Hurd said if the U.S. decides to pull the plug on financial aid that is likely to end up in Taliban hands and not with the people, Washington should look to the United Nations, which is already the global agency responsible for how governments treat their citizens.