As part of Washington’s ongoing work to address the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden has signed an Executive Order allowing some of the frozen assets from the war-torn nation’s central bank to be distributed as assistance and to victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, according to a White House statement.
When Kabul fell to the Taliban in August 2021, Afghanistan had over $9 billion in reserves held in the name of Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), or the central bank, outside of the country.
This included $7 billion in reserves held in the US, with the rest of the reserves largely being in Germany, the UAE, Switzerland, and a couple of other states.
The White House statement issued on Friday said that Biden signed the Executive Order to help enable certain US-based assets belonging to the DAB, to be used to benefit the Afghan people.
“The administration will seek to facilitate access to $3.5 billion of those assets for the benefit of the Afghan people and for Afghanistan’s future pending a judicial decision,” it said.
The statement further said that many American victims of terrorism, including relatives those who died in the 9/11 attacks, have brought claims against the Taliban and are pursuing the DAB assets in federal court.
Due to this, “more than $3.5 billion in DAB assets would remain in the US and are subject to ongoing litigation by American victims of terrorism. Plaintiffs will have a full opportunity to have their claims heard in court”.
After signing the Executive Order, Biden said that “the widespread humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the potential for a deepening economic collapse… constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the US”, according to the White House statement.
In a call with reporters on Friday, senior administration officials made clear that signing of the Executive Order “is one step forward in a process, and no funds are going to be transferred until the court makes a ruling”.
Reacting to the decision, spokesperson of the Taliban’s political office in Doha Naeem Wardak slammed the US for not unfreezing the entire frozen assets.
In a tweet, he said: “Stealing the blocked funds of Afghan nation by the United States of America and its seizure (of those funds) shows the lowest level of humanity … of a country and a nation.”