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Afghan officials fled to luxury homes leaving millions suffering | News

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In recent weeks, multiple reports have emerged of Afghan elites and various former officials of the Western-backed Kabul government escaping to luxury condominiums in Dubai and beachside villas in California during the Taliban takeover in August. past.

But tens of thousands of Afghans, who have also fled the country, still languish in overcrowded refugee camps around the world, while millions more face starvation in their home countries.

Last week, more than 1,000 people died and 10,000 homes were destroyed after a powerful earthquake hit southeastern Afghanistan.

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Former Afghan officials, including aides to former President Ashraf Ghani, spent millions to buy property in Dubai and the United States during the final years of the Western-backed government, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

A US watchdog said earlier this month that millions of dollars went missing from the presidential palace and the National Security Directorate during the Taliban’s takeover last August. The money remains unaccounted for, although Ghani is unlikely to flee with millions of cash, according to the watchdog.

The former president moved into the world famous five-star St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi after leaving Afghanistan. He now he lives in the United Arab Emirates.

Tens of thousands of Afghans, working for US and NATO forces, were flown in as US forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of war, but many of them are trapped in refugee processing centers around the world with an uncertain future.

Corruption and embezzlement

Reports of corruption within the Afghan government and embezzlement in the largely aid-dependent country highlight how Afghans, both refugees and those in the country, have been let down by his leadership.

“I gave the best years of my life to rebuild this country, to educate the next generation of thinkers. And now here I am, vulnerable and unable even to support my own family, while those who did nothing for the country live comfortable lives,” said Mina, a university professor who wanted to be identified by name.

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Former Afghan officials, including aides to former President Ashraf Ghani, spent millions buying property in Dubai and the US during the final years of the Western-backed government, according to the WSJ. [Facebook via AFP]

Mina built a career spanning more than 10 years, working as a respected teacher and a leading voice on women’s rights in Afghanistan. We are withholding the name of her university for security reasons.

Their work has been seriously affected due to the increasing restrictions imposed by the Taliban on women. Many of her classes have been cancelled, she hasn’t been paid in months, and she often faces harassment from Taliban guards for going out without a mahram (male escort). Afghan girls are still banned from secondary school and women are increasingly excluded from public life, bringing back memories of the last Taliban regime of the 1990s.

The Taliban have struggled to revive the war-torn economy after the West imposed sanctions, and the United States froze nearly $10 billion worth of Afghan central bank funds following the withdrawal of US-led forces.

The financial crisis in the country has seeped into her home and, as the sole breadwinner for her family, Mina has been struggling to make ends meet on a significantly reduced salary and intermittent, with prices rising.

In the last 10 months, he was only paid twice and it was less than half of what he was owed.

“A year ago cooking oil cost 50 Afs [$.56] per kilo, and today it exceeds 150 Afs [$1.69]. A sack of flour cost 1600 Afs [$18]but now it exceeds 4000 Afs [$45]. I haven’t been paid in months and have been borrowing money to feed my family (her parents and younger sister). But people don’t even lend me more,” she said, adding that most days, they split whatever meals they can afford into two or more parts so they have something to eat later.

“We are starving and I feel extremely desperate, especially when I see that those who left us in this situation are living comfortable lives,” Mina, who lives in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera.

fighting to survive

Meanwhile, Afghans forced into exile and struggling to survive watch in pain as corrupt former officials evade accountability.

Dr. Kamaluddin Koshan was a journalist working in Kabul before the Taliban takeover. He later worked to become a doctor to serve his people, but now lives as a refugee in neighboring Pakistan, often relying on handouts and charity.

“He had a satisfying and honest income, but most of all he loved the work he did because it helped our country. I didn’t imagine I would end up here today,” Koshan, 34, told Al Jazeera, speaking from Pakistan, where he currently lives, having escaped threats from the Taliban for his work.

As a refugee, Koshan, who was the North Zone regional manager for Khaama Press, a prominent Afghan agency, now shares a small, dingy one-bedroom space with his wife and three children, all under the age of eight.

According to a European Union report published in May, there are more than 3 million Afghans living in Pakistan, of whom 775,000 are undocumented and most live in extremely inhumane conditions in informal settlements in the country. Most of them had fled due to the last four decades of conflict in the country.

As their savings dries up, Koshan’s family has struggled to make ends meet.

“I have no income to pay rent, electricity or gas. Food is also scarce, and there are days when we go to bed hungry. Sometimes my kids ask me for fruit and I can’t even afford it,” she said, exhaustion evident in his voice.

In the 20 years before that, Koshan said, he had worked hard to achieve all the goals he had set for himself.

“I also worked with many NGOs and Afghan civil society fighting injustice,” he said, beaming with pride as he recounted his life’s journey.

“Even my children have been out of school for months because I can’t pay their fees. Every day they miss education, their future is at stake,” she said.

While Taliban threats forced Koshan into exile, he blames corrupt Afghan officials alike for his misery.

“They [corrupt officials] they looted everything that belonged to the country for 20 years. They appointed each other to influential positions and then rewarded each other,” he said, his voice rising in anger.

“There was so much nepotism and discrimination among the elites, and absolutely no sense of loyalty to Afghanistan,” he said.

Millions facing food insecurity

In fact, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John F Sopko, echoed similar concerns in dire warnings in June 2021.

“Corruption in Afghanistan is not just a criminal justice problem. Systemic corruption in Afghanistan goes beyond…a threat to the entire US mission and international effort in Afghanistan,” he said, warning the Afghan government to “get serious” about fighting corruption if it ever brings peace. durable to his people.

“Time is running out,” he had warned, a few weeks before the collapse of President Ghani’s Afghan government.

More than 22 million Afghans face food insecurity, according to the UN World Food Program, as the country faces economic collapse. The diplomatic isolation of the Taliban has not helped the situation.

Khalid Payenda, the last Afghan finance minister, who was named in the Wall Street Journal report for owning property in the US, has denied the allegations.

You have shared your financial records and the sources of your assets on your twitter handle.

Payenda, a whistleblower of several reports exposing corruption in the Afghan government, says that the corruption problem in Afghanistan was widely known and even exploited by many networks and stakeholders.

“Corruption was endemic in the sense that it existed not only at the national level but also at the sub-national level, and within all branches of government, the executive, the legislative and even the judiciary,” he told Al Jazeera.

Payenda shared similar evaluations of his time within the government system.

“In a department, which was generating only one million Afghans per month, far less than its potential, it increased significantly during my tenure,” he said.

Local news reports from last year confirm his claim, documenting an increase in customs collection: 330 million Afghanis collected daily in June 2021 compared to 180 million Afghanis per day in the previous quarter.

Koshan, who once placed great faith in Afghan democracy, is a disappointed man.

“I regularly voted in elections and encouraged others to get involved, thinking we could make a difference. But they lied to us,” she said bitterly.

“They told us to work for the country, even while building lives abroad, and abandoned us the moment things got worse,” he said, referring to the Afghan president’s escape on August 15, 2021 that triggered the collapse. from the country.

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