Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Economy, Development, Environment

Taleban Perceptions of Aid: Conspiracy, corruption and miscommunication

Sabawoon Samim Ashley Jackson 2 min

Despite publicly claiming to welcome international aid, the Taleban government has exercised a growing influence over humanitarian operations within Afghanistan at both national and local levels. This includes bans on women working for NGOs and the United Nations and, more recently, an order to hand over all internationally funded education projects to the Ministry of Education. These more high-profile national orders have been issued alongside hurdles and increasing suspicion at the local level, from demands for beneficiary lists to the detention of aid workers. In this report, Sabawoon Samim* and Ashley Jackson** look at the factors driving these restrictions on aid delivery and the dynamics that shape Taleban attitudes toward aid and aid workers.

Labourers take rest while distributing food aid from an NGO at a gymnasium in Kabul. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP, 17 January 2023.

You can preview the report online and download it by clicking the link below.

After assuming power in August 2021, the Taleban government was initially eager to reassure the United Nations and NGOs that they could continue aid operations. First impressions were of greater access, not surprising given that the establishment of the Islamic Emirate also represented, largely, an end to hostilities and greater security for aid workers. Nearly two years on, the Islamic Emirate has introduced restrictions on a number of issues affecting how aid is provided and by whom.

These restrictions ranged from limitations on female participation in aid work to demands for information about aid workers and aid recipients. This peaked with the bans on Afghan women working for NGOs in December 2022 and the UN in April 2023. At the same time, aid workers have reported increasing attempts by local officials to influence who receives aid, who is hired to work on aid projects and how aid projects are carried out.

The Taleban’s attitude toward aid is complicated. On the one hand, aid operations are vital to delivering certain services such as health and education and they employ many Afghans. Foreign aid has been integral to keeping the economy afloat, with UN shipments of cash supporting the aid effort, injecting liquidity into the economy, stabilising the currency and keeping inflation in check. On the other hand, many government officials are deeply suspicious of aid actors and the motives of most donors, who have so far refused to recognise their government. While the government wants aid, it also wants to influence how it is spent and programmed.

This report delves into Taleban views of aid and the factors driving their suspicion and hostility, starting with exploring the roots of Taleban suspicion and distrust of aid and subsequently heads to their concerns of corruption within aid actors. The report then assesses the consequences of this suspicion and how and why the Taleban want to regulate aid, explains the existing misunderstanding between the Emirate and aid workers and looks back at the missed opportunities early on after the takeover to influence Taleban attitudes more positively toward aid.

* Sabawoon Samim is a Kabul-based researcher whose work focuses on the Taleban, local governance and rural society.

**Ashley Jackson is co-director of the Centre on Armed Groups and author of ‘Negotiating Survival: Civilian-Insurgent Relations under the Taliban’, Hurst & Co, 2021.

Edited by Kate Clark 

You can preview the report online and download it by clicking the link below.


Aid Taleban Taliban United Nations