US special representative for Afghanistan to travel to UAE, India and Japan

Afghanistan suffered a deadly attack on Wednesday amid ongoing humanitarian and economic chaos

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West attends a meeting in Pakistan last year. EPA
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US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West will travel to the UAE, India and Japan next week to consult on the Central Asian country's ongoing humanitarian and economic crises.

Mr West will speak with world leaders on the “protection of Afghans’ rights and shared security concerns”, the State Department said on Wednesday.

The department did not provide details on which officials Mr West will meet during his travels.

The trip was announced on the heels of an explosion in northern Afghanistan that killed at least 15 people, with officials reporting that all victims were “children and ordinary people”.

Such attacks have become commonplace in Afghanistan since the Taliban's takeover following the hasty US withdraw from the country last year. The attacks have been compounded by skyrocketing poverty amid an economic meltdown.

Preliminary World Bank statistics show that Afghanistan's gross domestic product contracted by 20.7 per cent in 2021.

The cessation of aid as a result of the Taliban takeover “led to a dramatic drop in public spending and aggregate demand, shrinking household incomes and reducing consumption”, the World Bank said.

About 24 million Afghans are in dire need of humanitarian aid and are considered food-insecure as a harsh winter approaches, a leading Red Cross official told The National on Wednesday.

Last week, Russia's presidential envoy to Afghanistan announced Moscow would host a regional summit on the crisis.

“It is important that the world should not forget the situation in Afghanistan because today it’s not getting the attention that it deserves,” JP Singh, India's joint secretary in charge of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division of the Ministry of External Affairs, said of the Moscow talks.

Washington officials said that the US special representative will also engage with the Afghan diaspora, including human rights, business, political and media leaders, on how to address challenges.

The US is among the countries grappling with how to best address the status of Afghans who fled the Taliban takeover.

More than 78,000 Afghans came to the US under “Operation Allies Welcome” through a special process called “humanitarian parole”.

This allowed fleeing Afghans to be admitted to the US quickly, allowing them to stay for up to two years — though it does not guarantee a path to lawful permanent residency or citizenship.

Leaders in Congress introduced the Afghan Adjustment Act in an effort to bring those Afghans out of legal limbo and provide a path for some to obtain a more long-term status.

The bill has racked up significant endorsements both on and off Capitol Hill.

The US Chamber of Commerce, Airbnb, DoorDash, and several other leading American employers have urged Congress to pass the bipartisan bill before congressional budget talks this December, but the legislation's movement has stalled following the midterm elections.

Updated: November 30, 2022, 10:25 PM