February 15, 2022

Afghanistan’s Assets

“President Joe Biden signed an order Friday to free $7 billion in Afghan assets now frozen in the U.S., splitting the money between humanitarian aid for poverty-stricken Afghanistan and a fund for Sept. 11 victims… Biden’s order calls for banks to provide $3.5 billion of the frozen amount to a trust fund for distribution through humanitarian groups for Afghan relief and basic needs. The other $3.5 billion would stay in the U.S. to finance payments from lawsuits by U.S. victims of terrorism that are still working their way through the courts…

“The United Nations last month issued an appeal for nearly $5 billion, its largest ever appeal for one country, estimating that nearly 90% of [Afghanistan’s] 38 million people were surviving below the poverty level of $1.90 a day. The U.N. also warned that upward of 1 million children risked starvation.” AP News

Many on all sides are critical of the decision to divert half the funds away from Afghanistan:

“Diverting $3.5 billion for 9/11 victims is theft. Certainly, the victims of al Qaeda terrorism deserve compensation, but the Afghan reserves belong to the Afghans who fought with the U.S. and against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Biden’s willingness to paint all Afghans as responsible for 9/11 is factually wrong if not racist…

Afghanistan’s reserves belong to the Afghan people. President Ashraf Ghani may have fled, but the elected Afghanistan government remains the recognized government. The U.S. should direct Afghanistan’s trust fund to help the Ghani’s vice president consolidate control, support refugees outside Taliban control, fund consular services for those Afghans who have fled abroad, and organize resistance to the Taliban.”
Michael Rubin, Washington Examiner

“Families of 9/11 victims have legal claims against the Taliban, a militant extremist group that has seized power by force. Afghans never elected them; instead, they have endured great loss and suffering as a direct consequence of the ‘war on terror.’ For the past two decades, various Afghan forces have fought and died battling the Taliban. More than 71,000 Afghan civilians have died… The United States bears a sizable responsibility for this. The very least the Biden administration can do is release Afghan money to its rightful owners.”
H.A. Hellyer and Farid Senzai, Washington Post

“The United States government is looting assets legally held by another sovereign government to reward its own citizens. If another country pulled this move — and another country might be tempted to try it using this case as precedent — it would be viewed as outright theft. It makes it much easier for other great powers to act in a similarly imperial manner…

“The short-term implications of U.S. actions will be to free up some funds for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. The longer-term implication is to give other countries yet another reason to resent and fear the United States weaponization of the dollar. Because no matter what legal rationale is being provided, the federal government is stealing Afghanistan’s money.”
Daniel W. Drezner, Washington Post

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