Ex-UN official: West must stop playing ‘Great Game’ in Afghanistan

KABUL (Agencies): The West must stop pursuing “Great Game” politics and for once put the people of Afghanistan first, a former senior UN official has said. In an op-ed published by UK’s newspaper, Mark Malloch Brown, a former UN deputy secretary-general, said some 28.8 million Afghans require immediate assistance, up from 18.4 million in August 2021; 6 million are one step from famine. He added that women and girls have been doubly hit by both the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s rollback of their rights — including to work and learn — and wider crises of poverty and hunger that harm them the most. “Once more Afghanistan is isolated: denied diplomatic recognition, aid drying up, sanctioned and its assets frozen. In the US and Britain, many are all too keen to brush the policy failures the country represents under the proverbial carpet; best forgotten before the next elections,” Brown said. He said that this is also part of a longer cycle of geopolitical and regional competition that has consistently failed to put the Afghan people first. “Whether the policy has been proxy war or neglect, invasion or sponsorship of insurgents, surge or drawdown, outsiders have consistently ill-served the country’s people in a way that has typically led to the next chapter in the tragedy,” Brown said. He said that prioritizing ordinary Afghans involves dealing with the IEA, even if that means making nominal concessions to it. “A contact group of Western powers, Afghanistan’s neighbors, the Taliban (IEA) and ideally Afghan civil society might thus pursue goals including a more humane counter-narcotics strategy, improved flows of aid, especially to women and girls, and much greater clarity on sanctions to encourage foreign investment in areas such as irrigation. It might engage with Afghan actors beyond the Taliban, sowing the seeds of a more inclusive polity,” he said. Brown said that all parties have a vital interest in preventing the country from plunging over the edge. “Famine, state failure and even new conflict in Afghanistan would further destabilize Pakistan and the wider region, and make further refugees flee the country. Afghans now make up the largest cohort attempting to cross the English Channel.” “This presents Western and other leaders with a simple choice: keep pursuing ‘Great Game’ politics or for once put the people of Afghanistan first. More than 30 years of the former have got us where we are. A new approach is long overdue,” he added.