KABUL – Former senior UN official, Mark Malloch-Brown, has called on Western powers to shift their focus from “Great Game” politics to the welfare of the Afghan people. Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundation, in an opinion piece for the Financial Times, stated that the ongoing international approach in Afghanistan is detrimental to the most vulnerable, particularly women and girls.
Highlighting the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, Malloch-Brown points out that as the world approaches the second anniversary of the “Taliban’s victory declaration on August 31, 2021,” the number of Afghans requiring urgent assistance has surged from 18.4 million to 28.8 million, with 6 million on the brink of famine.
He criticizes the prolonged cycle of geopolitical and regional rivalry that has consistently neglected the well-being of the Afghan population. Malloch-Brown states that regardless of whether the strategy has involved proxy wars, neglect, invasions, or support for insurgents, outsiders have consistently failed to serve the country’s people effectively, leading to successive tragic chapters.
Malloch-Brown’s article, titled “Ending the ‘Great Game’ in Afghanistan,” highlights Afghanistan’s increasing isolation, characterized by lack of diplomatic recognition, diminishing aid, sanctions, and frozen assets. He underscores that in the US and Britain, there is a tendency to downplay the policy failures associated with the country, aiming to move past them before the next elections. He points out that this approach reflects a pattern of geopolitical and regional competition that has repeatedly sidelined the interests of the Afghan people.
The former UN official advocates for engaging with Afghanistan’s ruling regime, even if it means making nominal concessions, to promote the well-being of ordinary Afghans. He proposes the creation of a contact group involving Western powers, neighboring countries, the Taliban, and Afghan civil society. This group could collaborate on initiatives like a more compassionate approach to counter-narcotics efforts, improved aid distribution with a focus on women and girls, and clearer guidelines on sanctions to attract foreign investment in sectors such as irrigation.
Malloch-Brown acknowledges that isolating Afghanistan may seem justifiable due to the Taliban’s actions, human rights violations, and mismanagement. However, he argues that this approach ultimately harms the regime’s victims the most. He emphasizes that all parties must work to prevent Afghanistan from descending into chaos, as famine, state collapse, or new conflicts would not only destabilize the broader region but also lead to an increase in refugees, with Afghans constituting the largest group attempting to cross the English Channel.