US Won’t Release $3.5 Billion in Afghan Frozen Funds Right Now, Out of Terror Fear

The Biden administration on Monday ruled out transferring $3.5 billion in funds held in the United States back to Afghanistan’s central bank anytime soon, citing the discovery that the Al Qaeda leader appeared to was hiding in the heart of Kabul with the protection of the Taliban government.

The location of the funds comes on the one-year anniversary of the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan and just over two weeks later. an American drone strike killed Ayman al-ZawahriQaeda leader, on the balcony of a house affiliated with a faction of the Taliban coalition in an exclusive area of ​​the Afghan capital.

“We don’t see DAB refinancing as a short-term option,” said Thomas West, the US government’s special representative for Afghanistan. He noted that US officials have engaged for months with the central bank on how to strengthen the Afghan economy but have had no convincing assurances that the money will not fall into the hands of terrorists.

“We do not believe that organization has the safeguards and oversight in place to manage assets responsibly,” Mr. West said in a statement. previously reported by Wall Street Journal. “And needless to say, the Taliban’s cover for Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri reinforces the deep concerns we have regarding the diversion of funds to terrorist groups.”

Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, said the administration was looking for alternative ways to use the money to help the people of Afghanistan at a time when millions are being affected by the growing hunger crisis. increase.

“Right now, we are looking at mechanisms that can be put in place to demonstrate that this $3.5 billion in conserved assets will effectively and efficiently benefit the people of Afghanistan in a way that doesn’t make any difference.” they are ripe for redirection to terrorist groups or elsewhere,” Mr. Price said.

The frozen money issue remains one of the most sensitive questions a year after President Biden’s decision to withdraw the last of US troops from Afghanistan, which led to the collapse of the Western-backed government and the return of the Taliban. take power again. The White House has been very sensitive to the celebration’s approach, predicting that it will continue to criticize the the chaotic retreat of the Americans and restore repressive regimes, especially targeting women and girls.

Activities that found and killed al-Zawahri only highlight the debate recently. Biden and his allies say the success in hunting al-Zawahri shows that the United States can still fight terrorists without deploying many ground troops. His critics have pointed to the operation as evidence of carelessness in Mr Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan because it shows that the Taliban are once again sheltering Qaeda figures as it happened in the months and years before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Foreign Minister Antony J. Blinken has said that al-Zawahri’s presence shows that the Taliban have “seriously violated” the previous withdrawal agreement. negotiated by President Donald J. Trump and by Mr. Biden. However, the authorities have yet to explain what will happen if there are any consequences for the Taliban. The Taliban have denied knowing that al-Zawahri was living in Kabul with his family, although the Haqqani clan, a terrorist faction of the government, appears to be sheltering him.

US intelligence agencies have concluded since the drone attack that while a handful of longtime members of Al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan, the group did not re-establish a large presence there since the US withdrawal. But some counterterrorism experts say the assessment may be too optimistic.

The funds released on Monday were part of a total of $7 billion deposited at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York by the central bank of Afghanistan at the time of the Taliban takeover. Mr. Biden froze money and decided to split it in halfwith one part going to the relatives of the September 11 victims for legal pursuits and the rest being used to support the needs of the Afghan people, such as humanitarian relief.

The United States is working with allies around the world to establish an international trust fund of $3.5 billion to help the people of Afghanistan. Officials have said they have made significant progress in setting up such a trust but have not said when it will be established or how it will operate.

Afghanistan’s economy has collapsed in the year since the Taliban took over, leading to mass starvation and a refugee wave. In recent days, the United States announced it would send $80 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to help fight hunger in Afghanistan, as well as $40 million to UNICEF to assist with the education of Afghan children, especially in Afghanistan. girls, and $30 million to the UN. Women support Afghan women and girls seeking social protection services and run civil society organisations.

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