Joe Biden Takes Outrageous Decision on Use of Afghanistan Central Bank Funds

After months of urgent appeals to the Biden Administration to release the $7 billion of Afghan assets frozen by the Treasury Department in order to alleviate the acute humanitarian crisis, President Biden finally issued an executive order on the issue on Feb. 11.

Of the $7 billion in funds of the Afghanistan Central Bank (DAB) that have been frozen in accounts of various U.S. financial entities since last August, half are to be used to provide aid to people in Afghanistan, but only through agencies outside of the Taliban government control. The other half are to be held for disbursement to settle lawsuits against the Taliban filed by victims of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.

A Biden Administration official explained the same day that the source of the DAB reserves was basically assistance provided by the United States and othe donor countries for the past two decades, and therefore, the U.S. government is entitled to take possession of them, and disburse them as it wishes.

Shah Mehrabi, a member of the Board of the central bank, responded angrily to the decision, countering that “all of the foreign exchange reserves that are in the U.S. and Europe belong to the Afghan people.” The decision “to release only part of the funds will continue to hurt the millions of Afghan children, women, and families who are suffering one of the worst humanitarian and economic crises around the world.”

The DAB itself issued a statement, explaining that the foreign reserves are needed to maintain the stability and value of the nation’s currency, the afghani. Former Afghan Finance Minister Kaylid Payenda called the decision, if implemented, “the single biggest blow that you can deliver to the Afghan economy. The afghani would be worth less than a dirty, old piece of paper, when you don’t have the assets that back it up. You know, even if it’s locked, for years, for decades, that would still be better…”

(As concerns the claims filed by the 9/11 victims, although they may well deserve compensation, it is certainly not the Afghani people, who have suffered 20 years of U.S.-led war and occupation, who should have to pay it. In fact, there has been a systematic cover-up by the U.S. government and intelligence agencies of those, including in Saudi Arabia, responsible for the 2001 attacks.)

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