Afghan officials Monday asked the White House not to seize its frozen assets, with half allocated to meet lawsuits over the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Washington’s order to unfreeze $3.5 billion to satisfy legal claims an “atrocity.” He said that Afghans were “as much victims as those families who lost their lives” in the 2021 attacks on New York and Washington.
“Withholding money or seizing money from the people of Afghanistan in their name is unjust and unfair, and an atrocity against Afghan people,” he said. “The people of Afghanistan share the pain of the American people, share the pain of the families and loved ones of those who …lost their lives in the tragedy of September 11.”
United States President Joe Biden Friday signed an executive order that would divide $7 billion of funds owned by the Afghan Central Bank between legal claims arising from September 11, 2001, and ‘humanitarian aid.’ The US froze the money after the Taliban took power last summer following the US military withdrawal agreed between the Taliban and President Donald Trump in 2020.
Biden’s decision also outraged former Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, who wrote in a thread of tweets Monday that Biden, who had never been friendly to Afghanistan, was expected Afghans to pay the price of US policies and actions.
“First, the USA promoted the most radical of radicals in Afghanistan,” Spanta wrote, referring to US support for militant, Saudi-backed Sunni Islamists against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. “[Washington] strengthened them in the Cold War against the USSR at the expense of the Afghans. Then the US gave Pakistan a free hand in Afghanistan. Pakistan, with the cooperation and money of the West, dominated the Afghan resistance and created the Taliban as an instrument of its hegemony.”
Spanta expressed regret over his personal cooperation with the Americans: “Now the USA is punishing Afghanistan once again and capturing Afghanistan's reserves. I feel guilty before my people and before the history of my country to have ever considered the US government as a friend and ally. May the Afghan people forgive me.”
‘Injustice to Afghanistan’
Afghanistan's central bank (DAB) Saturday also criticized Washington's plan, including over ‘humanitarian aid,’ saying that it had invested assets in the US in line with international practices. "DAB considers the latest decision of USA on blocking FX (foreign exchange) reserves and allocating them to irrelevant purposes, injustice to the people of Afghanistan," the central bank said in a statement.
The bank argued the US had no right to make such decisions over the assets: "(DAB) will never accept if the FX reserves of Afghanistan are paid under the name of compensation or humanitarian assistance to others and wants the reversal of the decision and release of all FX reserves of Afghanistan.”
US administration officials said Friday they would work to ensure $3.5 billion of the assets allocated for ‘humanitarian aid’ would benefit the Afghan people, but stressed that the other $3.5 billion would remain in the US and be subject to ongoing litigation targeting the Taliban, which was in power in Afghanistan at the time of the 2001 attacks on the US. The World Bank last month put inflation at 13 percent amid falling wages and “a gradual deterioration in economic conditions” and shortages of foreign currency.