US officials said on Thursday that the Taliban had not officially requested help following a powerful earthquake Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan that reportedly killed more than a thousand people.
The confusing response to the disaster from the extremist regime has left rescuers scrambling to dig through the rubble with their hands.
Afghanistan has been cut off from much international financial assistance since the Taliban conquered the country by force in August 2021, following the disastrous military withdrawal of US President Joe Biden.
Taliban Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzadah made an unusual public appearance Wednesday to ask the international community “to help the Afghan people affected by this great tragedy, and to spare no effort”.
“When such a serious incident occurs in one country, the help of other countries is needed. It is very difficult for us to be able to respond to this huge incident,” Taliban Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund said during a briefing. an emergency meeting in Kabul.
Several countries quickly offered millions of dollars in disaster relief, including the European Union, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Japan. However, US deputy special representative in Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov said on Wednesday that the Taliban had not “officially requested the UN to mobilize international search and rescue teams or obtain equipment from the neighboring countries to supplement the dozens of ambulances and several helicopters sent by the Afghans”. authorities.”
Alakbarov feared the quake would “add a lot to the daily burden of survival” in Afghanistan, which was already a humanitarian crisis zone.
UN officials confirmed on Wednesday that they had not received requests from the Taliban regime to mobilize search and rescue teams or bring in rescue equipment from other countries.
The Associated Press (AP) cited UN officials and aid agencies who said the Taliban don’t appear to be interfering with their efforts in the quake zone, but they’re not doing much to help them either.
The Taliban Defense Ministry claimed to have sent dozens of helicopters with emergency relief supplies, but on Thursday AP reporters saw Taliban fighters doing nothing but driving through the provinces harshly affected by Paktika and Khost to observe the damage:
Under overcast skies in Paktika province, the epicenter of Wednesday’s quake where hundreds of homes were destroyed, men dug several long trenches on the mountainside overlooking their village. They prayed over a hundred bodies wrapped in blankets and then buried them.
In villages in Gayan district visited by Associated Press reporters for hours on Thursday, families who had spent the previous rainy night out in the open lifted pieces of wood from collapsed roofs and removed rocks from hand, in search of their missing loved ones. Taliban fighters were driving around in vehicles in the area, but only a few were seen helping to dig up the rubble.
There were few signs of heavy equipment – only one bulldozer was spotted being hauled. Ambulances were circulating, but little other help for the living was evident.
“We ask the Islamic Emirate and the whole country to come and help us. We are without anything and have nothing, not even a tent to live in,” said a desperate survivor. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the name given by the Taliban to his government.
On Thursday, Taliban officials claims their rescue operation was “nearly complete”.
“The rescue operation is over, no one is trapped under the rubble,” a Taliban military spokesman said.
At the same time, Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi was calling for more help from other countries, unconditionally – and he wanted more than just food and medicine.
“We call on natural disaster management agencies and the international community to provide immediate and comprehensive assistance to the Afghan people on the basis of humanitarianism, so that the victims can rebuild their livelihoods financially,” Balkhi said.