Taliban-US talks regarding $3.5bln of Afghan frozen assets
Senior Taliban officials and US representatives hold talks in Uzbekistan to discuss ways to expedite the release of frozen Afghan assets to help ease the humanitarian crisis in the country.
During talks in Uzbekistan, US and Taliban delegations discussed expediting existing efforts to use $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves to support the people of Afghanistan in the midst of an acute humanitarian crisis, according to a news release from the US State Department.
The statement released on Thursday read that "The two sides discussed ongoing efforts to enable the $3.5 billion in licensed Afghan central bank reserves to be used for the benefit of the Afghan people,” adding that "The United States underscored the need to accelerate the work on these efforts."
Senior Taliban leaders and a group led by US Special Representative Thomas West held negotiations on January 27 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, according to the press statement.
Back in February, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order releasing $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds to be shared between humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and American victims of "terrorism", including 9/11 families.
According to The New York Times, the intricate strategy is intended to address a slew of legal blockages originating from the September 11 attacks and the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
After the Taliban seized back control of the nation in August, the government was dissolved, leaving behind over $7 billion in central bank assets deposited with the US Federal Reserve Bank in New York. The Taliban took over the central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, and claimed ownership of funds.
It has been unclear who is legally authorized to access the assets, and the US still has not recognized the Taliban government.
In fact, the frozen deposits amount to $3.5 billion, which is half of the total amount blocked by the US government, with the other half being stolen by the US as described by The Guardian, which reported that taking Afghan money to "pay grieving Americans in order to punish the Taliban" is nothing less than larceny as collective punishment.
"I have argued that these reserves should be released to the Central Bank," said Shah Mehrabi, member of the Supreme Council of the Central Bank of Afghanistan.
He proposed a "limited, monitored release of reserves" of about $150 million each month to pay for imports. That would help "stabilize prices and help meet the needs of ordinary Afghans so that they can afford to buy bread, cooking oil, sugar, and fuel," alleviating the misery of families facing high inflation, he said.