“With so much money stolen, it is likely that many EIDL loans will never be repaid. That doesn’t mean the SBA should just throw up its hands and stop trying.”
“First passed in 2003 under President George W. Bush, PEPFAR is a vehicle for distributing HIV/AIDS drugs to people in poor countries who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. It has been astonishingly effective: The most recent US government estimates suggest it has saved as many as 25 million lives since its enactment. It is currently supporting treatment for over 20 million people who depend on the program for continued access to medication.
Given its success, PEPFAR has historically enjoyed bipartisan support. In 2018, Congress reauthorized PEPFAR for another five years without a fuss. But this time around, things look different. Some House Republicans, prodded by an array of influential groups, are threatening to block another five-year reauthorization. Their argument is pure culture war: that PEPFAR has become a vehicle for promoting abortion.
In reality, PEPFAR is legally prohibited from funding abortion services, and the argument against the program on anti-abortion grounds is very thin. But in today’s political climate, where the culture war reigns supreme on the right, this is enough to jeopardize the continued good functioning of a program that the Republican Party used to champion.”
“Prior to the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Afghan economy relied heavily on foreign aid; after the Taliban takeover, that influx of cash ceased. Under Taliban rule, unemployment is rampant and banks operate intermittently, with people able to withdraw no more than $100 in a month. On top of that, the US froze much of the $9.4 billion in Afghan currency reserves in Afghanistan’s central bank in August — a move which has functionally cut the country off from many foreign banks and left the Central Bank of Afghanistan unable to access its reserves and shore up the country’s cash flow.
Now, much of the country is facing poverty and starvation: In December, the World Food Program (WFP) found that 98 percent of Afghans aren’t getting enough to eat, and Guterres warned this month that “we are in a race against time to help the Afghan people.””
“Many of Afghanistan’s current problems are intimately connected to the US withdrawal from the country last year, and the Taliban’s ensuing takeover of the central government. Since then, US sanctions and an abrupt end to international aid have wrecked Afghanistan’s economy and sent it spiraling into crisis.
The US and the UN have made some concessions to allow humanitarian aid to operate outside the auspices of the Taliban; the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) granted some licenses to aid groups to operate in Afghanistan without running afoul of financial restrictions on other individuals and institutions in the country.
But, as experts have said, it’s not nearly enough to bring the Afghan people anywhere close to the needed aid, and regardless of the OFAC licenses, the Afghan banking system is still essentially held hostage by US sanctions against the Taliban.”
“The chilling effect of sanctions is keeping businesses and banks from actually engaging with the economy. As House Democrats pointed out in their letter last month, relatively simple steps — like issuing letters to international businesses assuring them that they are not violating US sanctions — could help alleviate the crisis and shore up the Afghan private sector, but the US Treasury has yet to do so.”
“In the meantime, the Taliban will hold talks this coming week with Western nations, including Norway, the UK, the US, Italy, France, and Germany, about humanitarian aid. The talks should not be seen as a legitimization of Taliban rule, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed to AFP on Friday, “but we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster.””