The mainstream media ignores the people of Afghanistan, as US sanctions create the risk of starvation

When the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan in August, American television news coverage of the plight of the country’s people spiked, often focusing on “the terror that awaited women and girls.” CNN Situation Room, 16/8/21) to protest the withdrawal (, 23/8/21).

Four months later, when those same citizens are plunged into a humanitarian crisis – in no small part due to US sanctions – where is the outrage?

UN: Afghanistan 'countdown to disaster' without emergency humanitarian aid

United Nations News (25/10/21) quotes the head of the World Food Program: “Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst – and food security has all but collapsed. “.

Experts warn of an impending humanitarian crisis after the US withdrawal (IRC, 20/8/21). In recent months, the messages have become more urgent. A United Nations report (25/10/21) warned that “the combined shocks of drought, conflict, Covid-19 and the economic crisis in Afghanistan have left more than half of the population facing record levels of hunger.” One million children are malnourished to the point of death in the coming months (IRC, 12/3/21).

RELATED: Empire of Chickenhawks: Why America’s Chaotic Departure From Afghanistan Was Actually Perfect

Decades of conflict, invasion and occupation have left Afghanistan with a very precarious economy. In 2019, prior to withdrawal, a record 50% of Afghans said they found it “very difficult” to earn their household income (Gallup, 23/9/21). While the drought and the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the current humanitarian crisis, it has largely been fueled by a collapsing economy. The entire banking system is collapsing, with government employees unpaid and people unable to access their money or receive money from relatives abroad.

As many have pointed out, the Taliban bears some blame, banning women from most paid jobs outside of teaching and healthcare, costing the economy up to 5% of GDP (UNDP, 12/1/21). But the much larger driver of the crisis is the US-led Taliban sanctions. The US occupation makes Afghanistan dependent on aid for 40% of GDP and 80% of its budget. Following the withdrawal, the United States froze about $9 billion of its central bank reserves, and U.S. and United Nations sanctions cut the central bank off from the international banking system and severely limited the including aid flowing into the country (UNDP, 12/21).

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Despite pleas from around the world, even, most recently, from former US military commanders in Afghanistan and dozens of members of Congress (Washington Post, 12/20/21). is different supposedly targeted sanctions, which have the effect of putting millions of civilian lives in jeopardy.

Interest disappears

As of November 1, in the wake of the deepening crisis, FAIR has identified only 37 TV news segments from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC that mention “humanitarianism” in the same sentence as Afghanistan. That’s 37 segments over seven weeks.

For perspective, when the US withdrew in August, journalists from those programs mentioned “women’s rights” in the same sentence as Afghanistan more often – 42 times – in just Seven days. Today, when those women and girls face starvation, deeply concerned TV reporters are virtually invisible.

Even when reports mention the crisis, they rarely highlight the role of the United States. Out of 37 mentions, FAIR was only able to find 4 mentions that considered sanctions as a factor.

MSNBC twice (11/23/21, 16/12/21) brought in a spokesperson for the International Rescue Committee to discuss the crisis, and CBS did so once (12/12/21); all three of these guests named the role sanctions played in Afghanistan’s economic collapse.

ABC: Country in Crisis

“One million children at risk of starving to death” was a sub-point in the ABC report (12/15/21); The main focus of the story is “Taliban’s power is being challenged by IS terrorists.”

ABC World News Tonight’s Ian Pannell (12/15/21), in a report from Afghanistan, the only other mention of sanctions, in a vague and brief reference to no name: “The combination of sanctions and drought brought the land water to the brink of disaster.” After showing a dilapidated two-year-old and telling the child’s mother, “You must be feeling very hopeless, very helpless,” Pannell concluded his report by noting:

$280 million in emergency aid has been agreed to by the United States and other countries, but it does not appear to be enough. It won’t reach the mouth of hunger until the end of the year. And the current situation in Afghanistan looks as bad as I can remember in 20 years of reporting here.

Without mentioning what caused the crisis, or what kind of help is really needed, Pannell’s report serves to paint America as a benevolent actor who hasn’t done enough to resolve a situation for the most part. inevitable. The segment and its first preview were the only two mentions of FAIR’s research on Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis on ABC for the duration of the study.

Often, the crisis is covered up with a brief ad highlighting women’s rights to a broader humanitarian crisis, as on CNN Newsroom (11/28/21):

A group of female Afghan students graduated from a private university in Kandahar on Saturday. They are forced to wear veils, due to a rule imposed by the Taliban. Before the Taliban took over, an estimated 100,000 girls were studying at universities. Graduates fear finding work can be difficult, given both Taliban rule and the country’s deepening humanitarian crisis.

Finding a job is also tough when a powerful adversary has frozen your nation’s central bank funds – but that’s not a problem the US corporate media is likely to have. .

More on the 20-year war in Afghanistan and America’s ugly exit: The mainstream media ignores the people of Afghanistan, as US sanctions create the risk of starvation

Huynh Nguyen

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