Global Policy Forum

Taleban Defiant Over UN Aid


By Kate Clark

June 13, 2001

The Taleban say they don't care if all United Nations assistance to Afghanistan ends because Muslim nations would step in to help. In remarks to journalists in Islamabad, the Taleban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, accused the UN of providing politically motivated aid.

He also linked deteriorating relations with UN humanitarian agencies to the failure of UN sanctions to force the Taleban to hand over Osama bin Laden for trial.

The UN is due to stop selling subsidised bread to almost 300,000 people in the Afghan capital, Kabul, at the end of the week in a dispute over the employment of Afghan women.

The UN has also said harassment by Arab militants and the Taleban's religious police is endangering its wider aid programme.

No Backing Down

Mullah Zaeef said the Taleban would not back down from enforcing Islamic Sharia law. He also said the UN had no proof that its staff were being harassed.

Foreign aid workers have said Arab militants who are allied to the Taleban make throat-slitting gestures whenever they see them. Women say they have been spat at and verbally abused.

But Mullah Zaeef denied the accusations. Until now, he said, no UN person had been killed or suffered any mishap, nor had any of their vehicles been damaged. He said the UN thought Afghans were helpless and would accept anything - but he said the Taleban believed God would make Muslims come to their aid and their help would be even better than that from the UN.

Outside Aid

This dispute could hardly come at a worse time for Afghanistan. The country is now in its third year of severe drought and an estimated five million people have little or no access to food. Most humanitarian aid is channelled through the UN. So far this year, over $2m has been raised. Almost all the aid comes from western countries. The Taleban have repeatedly asked the Muslim world for more help.

However, since the present crisis erupted only one Muslim non-governmental organisation, a small Pakistan-based agency, has made a public offer to step in should the UN withdraw.

More Information on Sanctions Against Afghanistan
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