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Monday, August 01, 2022, 21:02
US urged to act responsibly to release frozen Afghan assets
By Xu Weiwei
Monday, August 01, 2022, 21:02 By Xu Weiwei

Afghan burqa-clad women workers walk inside a shampoo and soap factory in Kandahar on July 30, 2022. (JAVED TANVEER / AFP)

HONG KONG – The failure of the United States to deliver even parts of Afghan financial assets the US froze last year exposes US hypocrisy in humanitarian assistance while prolonging sufferings of Afghan people, according to experts.

The US froze around $9.5 billion of Afghan overseas assets after it withdrew its troops from the country in August last year. A US delegation held a meeting with Taliban officials on July 27 on unfreezing part of Afghan central bank reserves, the US State Department said on July 28, but no progress is seen.

The Americans have not been supporting or funding the economy in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over, said Amina Khan, director of the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. 

Injecting money back into the Afghan private banks would allow individuals to access personal accounts, and restore their purchasing power to help overcome hardships they are facing in the wake of rising inflation.

Imtiaz Gul, Executive Director, Center for Research and Security Studies, Pakistan

The Afghan people “are going through huge economic constraints, inactivity”, and “of course let us not forget the humanitarian and natural disasters and calamities that they continue to suffer from,” she said, and local people regard the US freezing as robbery of Afghan properties.

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order in February which sought to split $7 billion in Afghan assets between funding humanitarian aid for the cash-strapped country and creating a trust fund with $3.5 billion to compensate the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

The US side has been hesitant in letting Taliban government have some of the money, which has been accused of breaking international rules and practices relating to state property in self-made excuses.

But the frozen assets need to be understood not as belonging to the Taliban, but to the Afghan state and the Afghan masses who are suffering, Amina Khan said.

Commenting on Taiban’s position, Salman Bashir, a former Pakistani ambassador to China said, “My own sense is that the Taliban have a mature world view and know how to conduct themselves with the world without compromising their own interests.”

He continued that the Taliban “will be in demand increasingly by external actors interested in Afghanistan and its vast resources”. 

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was visiting Tashkent, Uzbekistan on July 28 and 29, renewed calls for the United States and other Western countries to lift unreasonable sanctions imposed on Afghanistan. 

He made the remarks on July 28 while meeting Afghanistan's Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on the sidelines of the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent.

Wang urged the US and the West to undertake primary responsibilities for the war-torn nation's economic reconstruction. He also pledged China's continued support for Afghanistan's reconstruction and development.

If the Afghan state is not able to generate some sort of economic activity for its masses, it could very much move towards a collapse, Amina Khan said. That impact “would be colossal, not only for the regional countries, but of course for the international community.”

Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan, said Afghanistan needs the money to “jumpstart economic activity and financial transactions.

According to the expert, unfreezing even part of the US-held funds would enable the Afghan central bank to stabilize the Afghani, the local currency, which has fallen more than 15 percent against the US dollar, finance imports, provide liquidity to the banking system.

Afghan women pass next of Taliban fighter in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb 13, 2022. (HUSSEIN MALLA / AP)

“Injecting money back into the Afghan private banks would allow individuals to access personal accounts, and restore their purchasing power to help overcome hardships they are facing in the wake of rising inflation,” he added.

Moreover, US citing of 9/11 victims itself is based on thin ground because many US analysts have disputed official accounts of fundamental facts about the 9/11 tragedy. 

Some, citing convincing evidence, just called US official statements on 9/11 untrue, including those on listed hijackers and collapses of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and the WTC 7.

Analysts are calling for the US to live up to their responsibility and respect facts about the Taliban.

*Zhao Jia contributed to the story.

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