US decides to unfreeze $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds – RT World News

President Joe Biden issues executive order pooling funds as part of plan to divide them between aid and 9/11 victims

On Friday, the US government began releasing some $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds held in US banks – without allowing the Taliban access to the money. The White House announced the decision as part of a plan to combat the “widespread humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan, which he considered a “national emergency”.

President Joe Biden has issued an executive order that invokes emergency powers to compel U.S. financial institutions to consolidate and “to block” the assets – which belong to Bank Da Afghanistan, the country’s central bank. The decision earmarks some $3.5 billion for relief efforts, although the amount to be transferred depends on various ongoing litigation efforts to compensate American victims of Taliban terrorism, including relatives of those who died in the September 11 attacks.

The order came as Washington – which rejected Taliban calls to release the money and did not recognize the militant group as Afghanistan’s legitimate government – faced a court on Friday to declare its position on victim group lawsuits. In recent weeks, the Biden administration has also come under pressure from Congress to use the funds to address the economic and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan.

International funding to Afghanistan was suspended after the Taliban took power last August, leaving billions of dollars and assets belonging to the country trapped abroad. According to the New York Times, just over $7 billion had been left in US banks, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which cited uncertainty over who had legal authority over the money to make the funds unavailable for withdrawal. Biden’s order will further hamper Afghanistan’s already-hit central bank, the newspaper reported.

The U.S. government will seek to facilitate access to half of these assets for “for the benefit of the Afghan people and for the future of Afghanistan”, according to a White House fact sheet on Friday, without going into detail on what that process would look like. He also said American victims of Taliban attacks should get a “full opportunity to have their claims heard in court”, with “over $3.5 billion in ATM assets” remaining in the United States as a compensation fund for plaintiffs.

The New York Times noted that he was “very atypical” for the United States of “requisition” the assets of a foreign country, with the document reporting that the amount marked for aid efforts could eventually be placed in a trust fund that would fund aid while bypassing the Taliban. But setting it up is expected to take several months, unnamed sources said.

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The Taliban criticized this decision because “flight” with Mohammad Naeem, spokesperson for the group’s political office, describing it’s like “the lowest level of human and moral depravity.” The group has previously called on the international community to release funds and help avert a humanitarian disaster as its economy continues to falter. Afghanistan has more than $9 billion in reserves, with the rest of its assets in Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.

Last month, the UN called for nearly $5 billion in aid for Afghanistan, warning that nearly 90% of the country’s 38 million people had fallen below the poverty line and more than a million children were at risk of starvation.


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