WASHINGTON: Afghanistan registered a trade surplus of $79 million with Pakistan, one of its largest trading partners, from July 2021 to June 2022, according to the latest report by an official US monitoring agency, known as SIGAR.

The report — prepared for the US Congress by the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) — noted that Afghanistan’s currency, the Afghani, appreciated by 11.6 per cent against the Pakistani rupee.

The agency noted that despite economic and political troubles, the Afghan currency remained relatively steady this quarter, appreciating by 6.1pc against the euro and 0.2pc against the Indian rupee as well. 

Data issued by Afghanistan’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), however, showed that between the end of June and mid-September, the Afghani depreciated 0.6pc against the US dollar and 1.9pc against the Chinese yuan.

Quoting from the most recent trade data collected by the World Bank, SIGAR reported that Afghanistan’s main imports from Pakistan this year remained food items, followed by pharmaceutical products and wood.

But rising oil prices in the international market, tilted bilateral trade in Afghanistan’s favour as Pakistanis looked for alternative fuel sources.

“Afghanistan is exporting about 10,000 tons of coal a day to Pakistan,” the SIGAR report added, showing how Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers were benefiting from rising oil prices.

“Between June and July 2022, the Taliban tripled prices on coal exp­orts to raise revenue from its mining sector amid booming coal exports to Pakistan,” the report said.

The US monitoring agency, however, noted that the Taliban’s diplomatic isolation continued as to date, no country has officially recognised the regime as the government of Afghanistan after the group seized control of the country in August last year.

However, several countries, including China, Pakistan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, have allowed Taliban-appointed diplomats to take up residence at Afghan embassies in their capital cities.

While the United States has not yet recognised the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan, US officials have continued to engage with Taliban representatives on a wide range of issues and closely observe Taliban actions in a number of areas, SIGAR reported.

The report noted that the United States remains the largest donor to Afghanistan, providing more than $1.1 billion to Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.

Quoting from data collected by the Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute at Brown Uni­ver­sity, the report noted that US costs for the 20-year war in Afghanistan was more than double the estimates released by the Pentagon. 

The Costs of War project 2001–2021, puts total costs of the Afghan war at $2.26 trillion against the Pentagon’s $933bn.

Unlike the Pentagon’s Cost of War Report, the Watson report adds what it considers to be Afghanistan-related costs of $433bn above the Department of Defence’s baseline costs, $296bn in medical and disability costs for veterans, and $530bn in interest costs on related borrowing.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2022

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