Conflict Alerts # 82, 6 May 2020
In the news
On 30 April, SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) published its 47th' Quarterly Report to the United States Congress', on the status of reconstruction in Afghanistan.
The report highlights the possibility of a 'health disaster' in the upcoming months amid COVID 19 and "Afghanistan's vulnerabilities with a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous border, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran and the ongoing violence."
Issues at large
According to the report, the upsurge in coronavirus cases has complicated the peace process, withdrawal of foreign troops and the prisoner release. The deal between the US-Taliban called for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 government personnel held by the insurgents. The intra-Afghan peace process may further be hindered if prisoners from either side die, due to the possible coronavirus outbreaks in over crowed prisons in Afghanistan.
Migrants returning from Iran along the porous borders are seen as the primary carriers of the virus. The shortage of PPE and low levels of testing may increase the spread of the virus. The weak health care system and low health literacy may exacerbate the health crisis in the upcoming months.
With borders closed with Pakistan and less commercial transportation between Afghanistan and Central Asia, there is a high possibility of a decrease in the availability of food and other goods. As of 16 April, 1,900 shipping containers for Afghanistan got stuck at the port of Karachi. The UN, WFP (World Food Programme) recorded a spike in prices of food commodity, with a 15-18 per cent increase in prices of wheat flour and a 17 per cent increase in cooking Oil and the purchasing power of casual labourers decreased by 20 per cent.
The pandemic has affected the ongoing peace talks putting pressure on the government to accept the Taliban's demands and to release prisoners. The spread of coronavirus and the Taliban's violence are likely to push the country into more instability and weaken its political structures.
Sukanya Bali is a Research Associate at the Science Diplomacy Programme in the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS).