Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021.

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2021. AP / Zabi Karimi

‘There Is No Afghan Government’: NATO Stops Aid To Afghanistan As Taliban Take Over

Stoltenberg says aid could resume to an “inclusive government." And at the White House: “We will have to take a hard look at how we proceed on any basis at all.”

Updated: 3:35 p.m.

NATO has frozen all financial aid to Afghanistan now that the country has fallen under Taliban control, the leader of the alliance said Tuesday. 

The international community has spent two decades training, equipping, and paying the salaries of local Afghan forces, in addition to supporting the elected government. But now that government leaders have fled and the Taliban has taken control of the entire country, that aid has stopped, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday in a press conference.

“We have of course suspended all...financial and other kinds of support to the Afghan government because there is no Afghan government for NATO to support,” Stoltenberg said. “All of that is frozen and suspended….No money is transferred, no support is provided to Kabul after the collapse of the government.” 

Stoltenberg did not rule out help in the future. He said that aid could restart if some kind of “inclusive government” is established. 

“If that happens, it will be easier to have some kind of relationship, compared to if we have a Taliban rule which is similar to what we saw 20 years ago,” he said. 

NATO runs a trust fund for the Afghan National Army, which uses contributions from allies to help the Afghan military get training, education, and equipment. At a meeting of the fund’s board in October, allies confirmed their contributions for 2021 and promised to continue paying into the fund through 2024. 

Since the fund was established in 2007, countries have contributed more than $3.4 billion, as of Feb. 5. Some of the top contributors are Australia, which has given $680 million; Germany, which has given $810 million; and Italy, which has given $508 million. The United States has paid $40 million into the fund. 

The Biden administration also repeatedly promised earlier this year that diplomatic and economic support for Afghanistan would continue even though the military presence was ending. The United States had already committed to spend $3.3 billion in 2022 to support the Afghan air force, buy fuel and spare parts, and pay the salaries of Afghan troops.  

“We will not abandon Afghanistan,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan, told Der Spiegel in May. “Afghanistan is going to be at the very top of the recipients of U.S. assistance, foreign assistance which includes supporting the Afghan security forces, development assistance and humanitarian assistance. And our allies say the same.”

In addition, the State Department announced in April that it was working with Congress on a $300 million aid package for Afghan civilians focused on supporting women’s rights, growing the Afghan economy and improving access to healthcare and education. That money was expected to be distributed by both the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development. 

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that it’s too early to talk about whether the United States will still send any of that aid to Afghanistan.

“We will have to take a hard look at how we proceed on any basis at all,” Sullivan said at a White House briefing. “It’s premature to answer those questions. That’s something we will have to take a look at after we get through the immediate task of this mission.” 

If aid does continue to flow into Afghanistan, it will be much harder now that many countries, including the United States, have closed their embassies and evacuated most staff. 

But Sullivan argued that the United States has been able to provide aid to the citizens in other countries where the administration has “very difficult or non-existent relationships.” He declined to give any details about the future of Afghan aid or whether the White House will recognize the Taliban as the official government. 

Stoltenberg said that the alliance’s top priority now is getting as many people as possible out of Afghanistan to safety. But once the evacuation mission is complete, he called for an “honest, clear-eyed assessment” of whether the money NATO invested and the troops put at risk made a difference in the long-term. Though he said there are gains that will be difficult to undo, such as an entire generation of Afghan girls getting an education, the collapse of the military and government was “swift and sudden.” 

“We have to continue to fight international terrorism…[and] we strongly beleive that it’s better to build local capacity to train local forces,” he said. “But the big question we have to ask...is why didn’t the forces we trained and equipped and supported over so many years, why were they not able to stand up against the Taliban in a stronger and better way?”