The White House said the order is designed to “provide a pathway for funds to reach the Afghan people.”
US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order creating the ability to split $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds held in the US, potentially allocating half to humanitarian aid to the country while keeping the other half available for possible seizure by the victims of September 11. attacks.
The executive order signed on Friday says the administration will “seek to facilitate access to $3.5 billion” in Afghan assets currently held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York “for the benefit of the Afghan people and for the future of the Afghanistan”.
However, he said the allocation of those funds would be “pending a court decision”. The White House also referenced legal claims by families of 9/11 victims who said they were entitled to the money following previous default rulings against the Taliban and other named groups in previous lawsuits.
Biden’s executive order said that while the pending judgment allowed $3.5 billion to go to the Afghan people, an additional $3.5 billion would remain in the United States and would remain “subject to pending lawsuits.” by American victims of terrorism”.
In a statement, the White House said the order is “designed to allow funds to reach the Afghan people, while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and malicious actors.”
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 prompted governments and international institutions to quickly freeze Afghan Central Bank assets abroad, totaling around $10 billion. About $7 billion of that was held in the United States.
The Taliban have repeatedly called on the United States and other governments and institutions to release the funds, saying they are needed to stabilize Afghanistan’s ravaged economy and prevent a humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban blasted the latest US decision.
“The theft and seizure of US held/frozen money from the Afghan people represents the lowest level of human and moral decay of a country and nation,” the door-to-doorman said on Twitter on Friday. word of Taliban Mohammad Naeem.
The United States does not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan and has labeled the group a “terrorist organization”. Rights groups have also called on the United States to release the funds through humanitarian channels that largely bypass the Taliban.
A senior US administration official said it would take months to release aid funds for Afghanistan due to ongoing lawsuits, stressing that the money – regardless of the amount – would not be unable to cope with the immediate humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
“Because we have to go through legal proceedings here, it will be at least several months before we can move this money, right? This money will therefore not be available for the next two months anyway,” the official told reporters early Friday.
Friday’s executive order came as the US government faced a legal deadline to state its position on the 9/11 families’ ongoing attempts to seize Afghan funds.
At least one group of families have argued they were entitled to the funds based on a 2012 ruling that awarded them damages in a case that named Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Iran, among other defendants.
Other groups of victim families argued that they were also entitled to the funds on the basis of default decisions, although these cases never resulted in a final decision on damages.
Before the Taliban took over, the Afghan government depended about 75% on foreign aid. With this aid cut off, the dire humanitarian situation in the country has worsened.
The United Nations has said that 96% of Afghans could fall into poverty by 2022. Millions of people remain on the brink of starvation in the country.