US$12m seized from ex-officials as cash crunch hits Afghanistan

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Abdul Rahim, a demobbed soldier in the former Afghan army, travelled nearly 1,000km from Faryab to the capital to try and collect his backpay.

“The branches of the banks are closed in the provinces,” he told AFP Wednesday, “and in Kabul thousands of people queue to get their money out.

“I have been going to the bank for the past three days but in vain. Today I arrived at around 10am and there were already about 2,000 people waiting.”

The Taliban on Tuesday thanked the world after a donor conference in Geneva pledged US$1.2 billion in aid for Afghanistan, but the country’s needs are immediate.

Donor nations, however, want conditions attached to their contributions and are loath to support a regime with as bloody a reputation as the Taliban.

The hardline Islamists have promised a milder form of rule compared to their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, but have moved swiftly to crush dissent – including firing in the air to disperse recent protests by women calling for the right to work.

Still, UN chief Antonio Guterres said this week he believed aid could be used as leverage with the Islamist hardliners to exact improvements on human rights.

“It is very important to engage with the Taliban at the present moment,” he said.

One month into their second rule, some Afghans are conceding there have been some improvements in their lives – not least security in the capital, which for years was plagued by deadly suicide bomb attacks and targeted assassinations blamed largely on the Taliban.

“Currently the situation of the country is good, there is no war,” said Mohammad Ashraf.

JOB SATISFACTION

Laalagha, a street vendor, said he was no longer being shaken down by corrupt police officers – although he had turned to selling fruit as no-one could afford to buy flowers.

“I am really satisfied with my new job. In the past the situation was like this … a policeman would come and puncture the stall’s tyre and he would beat you.

“But now no one is disturbing or creating problems.”

But at least half the population face the possibility of not having employment as the Taliban grapple with how to deal with women in the workforce.

“The Taliban have told us to stay home,” said one women who worked in the telecoms ministry of the old regime.

“There is security, but if there is no food soon the situation will change.”

The Taliban named an interim government last week and acting ministers have been holding press conferences spelling out policies that range from how women should dress at university to what sports can be played.

But they have been light on details of how the country will be run and when they will get the civil service functioning again.

“I am just happy they didn’t kill me yet,” said Abdul Rahim, the ex-soldier who served with the old army’s 209th corps until surrendering just days before Kabul fell on Aug 15.

“If they revive the army I will join as a soldier again, but if not, I will have to find another job.”


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