Taliban plans to turn former foreign bases into special economic zones

Taliban plans to turn former foreign bases into special economic zones

[1/2] Parked vehicles are seen in Bagram U.S. air base, after American troops vacated it, in Parwan province, Afghanistan July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

KABUL, Feb 19 (Reuters) – The Taliban administration will move ahead with plans to turn former foreign military bases into special economic zones for businesses, the acting deputy prime minister for economic affairs said in a statement on Sunday.

The acting commerce minister had told Reuters in December that his ministry was working on the plan for former American bases and would submit it to both the economic committee led by acting deputy PM Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and to the cabinet for approval.

“Following a thorough discussion, it was decided that the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should progressively take control of the remaining military bases of the foreign forces with the intention of converting them into special economic zones,” Mullah Baradar said in the statement.

He added a pilot plan would begin to convert bases in the capital Kabul and in northern Balkh province.

Afghanistan’s economy has struggled and aid agencies are warning of a severe humanitarian crisis since the Taliban took over in 2021 as foreign troops withdrew after 20 years of war.

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The takeover sparked a cut in development funding, the freezing of foreign-held central bank assets and sanctions enforced on the banking sector.

The Taliban administration’s decision to bar most female NGO workers from work last year prompted many aid agencies to partially suspend operations while millions remain dependent on humanitarian aid.

The Taliban have said they are focused on boosting economic self-sufficiency through trade and investment. Some foreign investors have expressed concerns over a series attacks, including at a hotel popular with Chinese businessmen, claimed by Islamic State.

However, the World Bank has also noted that exports rose and the Taliban administration managed to keep revenues largely steady in 2022.

Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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