Islamic countries are pledging to launch a humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan

Claire Harbage, NPR

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaks at a press conference following the OIC meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sunday.

Updated December 20, 2021 at 11:57 AM ET

Foreign ministers from Islamic countries met in an emergency meeting in Islamabad over the weekend and agreed to set up a humanitarian trust fund and food security program for Afghanistan. They also appointed an Organization of Islamic Cooperation special envoy for Afghanistan.

Thirty foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers from Islamic countries, as well as special representatives from the U.S., China and Russia and the United Nations, attended the one-day conference, the largest international meeting on Afghanistan since the country fell to the Taliban in August.

Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s interim foreign minister, attended with his own delegation. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Muttaqi met with Thomas West, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, among other representatives.

“Forces that had serious reservations are now engaging and talking,” Qureshi said at a news conference. As for the Taliban, he said, “I’m sure they were sensitized to the expectations of the international community.”

U.N. Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths warned during Sunday’s meeting that basic services in Afghanistan “are collapsing” and said universal poverty may affect 97% of the Afghan population by the middle of next year. “The Afghan economy is in free-fall,” he said, “and I fear this fall will pull down the entire population with it.”

After the Taliban took power in August, the U.S. froze $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets. Pakistani leaders urged the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council on Sunday not to let sanctions impede delivery of humanitarian aid and money for Afghan schools and hospitals. The U.N. is making an appeal for $4.5 billion, Griffiths said, “but our plan is a stopgap measure … the crisis is huge.”

A version of this story appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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