Afghanistan hurtling toward collapse, Sweden and Pakistan say

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Afghanistan plunged into crisis in August after the radical Islamist Taliban movement toppled a Western-backed government, leading to an abrupt end to billions of dollars in aid to its aid-dependent economy.

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Sweden’s Development Minister Per Olsson Friedh told Reuters in Dubai: “The country is on the verge of collapse and this collapse is coming faster than we thought.”

He said economic free fall could provide an environment for terrorist groups to thrive, but that Sweden would not channel funds through the Taliban, instead promoting its humanitarian contributions through Afghan civil society groups.

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Several countries and multilateral institutions have halted development aid but increased humanitarian aid since August, reluctant to legitimize new Taliban rulers.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry later told Reuters that direct engagement with the Taliban was the only way to prevent humanitarian devastation, and called for the release of billions of dollars worth of Afghan assets frozen abroad.

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“Are we going to push Afghanistan into chaos or are we going to try to stabilize the country?” he said in Dubai.

He said the engagement would also encourage the protection of human rights and the establishment of an inclusive, constitutional government.

Pakistan has deep ties with the Taliban and was often accused of supporting the group as it fought the US-backed government in Kabul for 20 years – allegations denied by Islamabad. Sweden’s Fridh said the Taliban had so far failed to prove that they had abandoned the repressive policies that marked their last period in power from 1996-2001.

He also said that the conditions were not right for European countries to reopen embassies in Kabul.

Instead, there will be more diplomatic activity in Qatar, a key negotiator between the West and the Taliban.

Fridh met with Qatari officials in the capital, Doha, this week.

But Chaudhry said the time had come for the United States, China and other major powers to create a framework for formal recognition of Afghanistan’s new rulers and the lifting of UN sanctions on Taliban members, including some members of the new government.

This, along with direct funding, was the only way to contain the instability, he said, adding that “the eye on this bomb is already clicking.”

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Credit : www.cnn.com

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