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Daily Evacuation Brief | March 22, 2022
LAST 24 HOURS:
The Interior Ministry announced they would begin issuing licenses for guns and armored vehicles. Officials said that security has improved, but people who feel threatened should apply for the licenses. We caution at-risk Afghans about participating in this program until more is known. It looks very much like a trap that could ensnare people.
In advance of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meetings in Pakistan, the Islamic Development Bank and the OIC signed a charter to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan.
Transportation costs have risen steeply, and residents are complaining about the lack of buses available for commuters. Many are questioning the increased costs during a countrywide economic contraction. There is grumbling that citizens under financial duress are being forced to finance an expansion of the army and police force.
The Interior Ministry has banned excessive speeds and the use of horns by security forces as they move through the cities. Citizens have complained of personal danger due to reckless driving by Taliban forces. Officials at the Ministry say they will deal with violators quickly.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation meetings will commence in Islamabad, Pakistan. The situation in Afghanistan is expected to dominate discussions during the conference.
Parents of a Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian photojournalist intend to initiate legal action against the Taliban at the International Criminal Court over the murder of their son, Danish Siddiqui. He was reportedly detained, tortured, killed, and mutilated post-mortem by the Taliban while covering a clash between the Taliban and government forces near Spin Boldak in July 2021. To our knowledge, this will be the first high profile legal challenge the Taliban could face.
The French Red Crescent Society intends to reopen several of the COVID-19 hospitals that had been forced to close due to a lack of financial support. The first will open in Kabul tomorrow. At this time, we do not know which hospitals will be opening but they have stated a desire to open hospitals nationwide. The Afghan Digest will provide updates as this information becomes available.
ANALYSIS SPOTLIGHT: The Ruble Zone Crisis Builds
CONTEXT: As previously reported, several Central Asian countries who depend on Russia for a significant portion of their economic activity are now facing difficult economic positions.
DISCUSSION: Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are the least insulated from the fallout over the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia. Both countries derive a sizable portion of their GDP from remittances (30 and 28% respectively) sent back by family members who work in Russia, and local businesses are often closely tied with Russian ones. Over the past week, companies in Russia who typically rely on Tajik and Kyrgyz labor have warned returning employees they don’t have positions for them as contracts have been frozen or canceled. The relatively fortunate Tajik and Kyrgyz citizens already working in Russia have seen their wages devalued by as much as 33% since the sanctions were imposed. Adding fuel to the fire, inflation continues to rise for products and commodities across the region.
Tajikistan continues to be the most concerning case. The government has large foreign debt obligations and will now have to deal with reduced incomes for approximately 70% of all households in the country. Citizens do not have high hopes for government support, but the economic contraction will affect the government’s bottom line nonetheless.
According to Tajik economist Foziljon Fatulloev, the full effects for the sanctions have not unfolded yet since families are still living off of the most recently sent remittances and savings. However, as savings run out, more workers are laid off, and remittances dry up further, the economic situation will quickly deteriorate. One of the only solutions he sees is for Tajikistan to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and begin trading in rubles. However, there is significant concern over abandoning the US dollar and being exposed to the wild currency fluctuations that are anticipated to develop over the coming year.
The economic flame could light the whole Tajik house on fire. The country has been ruled by a heavy-handed central government which is generally thought to be a model of the modern kleptocratic state. The security forces have periodically stifled dissent by arresting dissidents on trumped up charges and do not enjoy popular support among the citizenry. The Eastern portion of the country is home to armed opposition groups among the Pamiri ethnic groups who have long been marginalized by Dushanbe and may seek to capitalize on the crisis. Finally, Tajikistan has continued to engage in vicious and bloody border disputes with Kyrgyzstan over the past two years.
Afghanistan could be drawn into an internal Tajik crisis through ties between Wakhi-speaking Pamirs who reside in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the longstanding dream of cleaving the Badakhshan region away from China and Tajikistan to form its own republic. The Turkistan Islamic Movement is known to be operating in Afghanistan and seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate across the region.
A volatile situation on the Northern border that involves ethnically affiliated people living in Afghanistan presents a dangerous scenario for the Taliban.
ANALYSIS: Whether Tajikistan joins the EAEU or not, it is going to face serious economic issues. We believe they are already facing default on their debt in the next two months. We also know the population is already beginning to suffer from a lack of remittance funds. The official dollar exchange rate has been stable, but the black-market rates are creeping up rapidly.
We foresee calls to “liberate” the Badakhshan region soon. Whether those calls will be echoed in Afghanistan remains to be seen. We do not think it likely that Afghanistan would provide open military support for separatist movements but assess it is likely they will covertly provide weapons and other forms of material support.
Afghani to the Dollar: $1 – 87.83 AFN (as of 22 MAR 2022)
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