Afghan flag flies over an observation post, Pekha Valley, Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Sitrep: How Could Coronavirus Affect Afghanistan?

An expert has told the BFBS Sitrep's podcast that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause conflict to "deteriorate in a terrible way".

Afghan flag flies over an observation post, Pekha Valley, Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan

Afghanistan was supposed to be on the road to peace, but experts have told BFBS Sitrep coronavirus has made an already difficult situation even worse.

This week, numerous organisations and charities called for a ceasefire so all sides could focus on the common enemy – coronavirus.

However, Jarrett Blanc, former advisor on Afghanistan to the US State Department and now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said whilst a ceasefire is "desirable", he hasn’t "seen any indication it is likely".

The Taliban would offer a ceasefire in coronavirus affected areas they control, he suggested this may be to "consolidate control".

"One thing that all sides will be trying to do is to present themselves as an effective government and therefore consolidate their legitimacy in the public view," he said.

File Taliban training camp
Taliban training camp (Credit: PA).

Alongside the conflicting groups within the country, neighbouring countries Iran and Pakistan are also sharpening the blow of Afghanistan’s coronavirus crisis, according to Mr Blanc.

"Afghan refugees or economic migrants... are choosing to, or being forced to, return to Afghanistan from Iran and... by all accounts, bringing the coronavirus with them," Mr Blanc said.

Despite the virus spreading across the region, he does not believe it will stop Pakistan or Iran “trying to press their advantage in Afghanistan as the United States continues its drawdown(of troops)."

Mr Blanc told Sitrep that despite the US withdrawal from the region and the truce negotiated with the Taliban, Afghanistan's future depends on whether the United States can continue leading the international coalition "to pay a substantial amount of financial assistance to Afghanistan".

"It was always going to be a hard sell to keep a few billion dollars a year flowing to Afghanistan without the troops present," Mr Blanc said.

“It’s a much, much harder sell if you’re also trying to come up with potentially trillions of dollars a year to restart the economy after coronavirus.

"So long as the bills were being paid, the situation could be kept more or less under control."

But, if payments were to stop, he believes the situation will "absolutely deteriorate in a terrible way…that’s almost certain to have negative effects on our national security interests".

Cover image: (Picture: US Army).

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