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Congress seeks to block Taliban from accessing billions of dollars

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A US Capitol Police officer stands at an intersection near the US Congress building in Washington on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.

A Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation in the US Congress aimed at blocking the Taliban in Afghanistan from accessing the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has frozen $450 of funds that were scheduled to be dispersed to the country next week.

Afghanistan is believed to have over $9 billion in assets in the United States, according to Ajmal Ahmady, the governor of Afghanistan’s Central Bank.

Ahmady, who fled the country on Sunday amid the Taliban’s quick advance into Kabul, tweeted that Afghanistan had about $7 billion at the Federal Reserve, which is the central banking system of the United States, and $3.1 billion in US bills and bonds.

Representative Andy Barr (R- Kentucky), the ranking member of the House Financial Services subcommittee on national security, authored the bill aimed at cutting off the Taliban from accessing the international banking system.

The Taliban last week declared state of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, after ousting the US-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. Ghani fled the country to the UAE.

The Biden administration is trying to freeze Afghanistan’s assets in the US and abroad.

The IMF on Wednesday froze $450 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR), which is a financial asset of the IMF that is lent out to countries so they can access cash based on current market value.

The Biden administration reportedly pressured the IMF to freeze the Afghan funds and it also reportedly acted to freeze Afghan assets in American central banks and the Federal Reserve.

Barr hailed the IMF’s action and said that his legislation is meant to build on such international efforts to financially isolate the Taliban.

“The Administration’s decision to withhold $450 million in [Special Drawing Rights] is a start, but it does not fix the underlying concern that Taliban militants may still gain access to IMF resources,” the GOP lawmaker said.

“My bill would use American muscle to cut off Afghanistan from the IMF, unless there is a national interest to reverse that decision and we can be sure that the government in Afghanistan is protecting women’s rights and not supporting terrorists.”

If passed, the bill would direct the American envoy to the IMF to advocate against recognizing any Afghan government that is under control of the Taliban.

Biden has come under intense scrutiny for the chaotic exit of the military from Afghanistan, and his failure to provide a safe passage for US citizens and some Afghans from Kabul.

Biden had repeatedly vowed the withdrawal from Afghanistan would be orderly, deliberate and safe and that there were no circumstances that Afghanistan would suddenly fall to the Taliban.

The Taliban are poised to run Afghanistan again two decades after they were removed from power by American forces following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and removed the Taliban from power. American forces occupied the country for about 20 years on the pretext of fighting against the Taliban. But as the US forces left Afghanistan, the Taliban stormed into Kabul, weakened by foreign occupation.


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