News   /   Economy

Sanders urges Biden to release Afghanistan's frozen assets to 'avert the crisis'

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)
Senator Bernie Sanders has called on the Biden administration to release billions of dollars of Afghanistan's foreign reserves to avert the unfolding crisis. (AP File Photo)

Pressure is mounting on the Joe Biden administration to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets and to remove hurdles in the delivery of aid to millions of people teetering at the brink of starvation and death.

Joining the chorus now is veteran Democratic senator, Bernie Sanders, who has called on the Biden administration to "immediately release" billions of dollars of Afghanistan's foreign reserves to avert the unfolding "crisis" in the crisis-stricken south Asian nation.

“Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian catastrophe,” the senator from Vermont said in a tweet on Tuesday. “I urge the Biden administration to immediately release billions in frozen Afghan government funds to help avert this crisis, and prevent the death of millions of people.”

The veteran US congressman’s statement came amid reports that millions of people in Afghanistan, including women and children, are battling extreme level of poverty, made worse by harsh winter.

People in Afghanistan have been tormented by grinding poverty and hunger for decades, but since the botched exit of the US-led international forces and the Taliban’s sweeping takeover in August last year, the country has been staring at a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Soon after the Taliban laid siege to Kabul mid-August last year, US and its international partners raced to cut off Afghanistan’s access to international aid and froze roughly $10 billion in assets belonging to the country’s central bank.

The move triggered rapid collapse of public finances and precipitated the current crisis. European Union also then followed the suit, stopping development assistance to the country, followed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Calls have been growing louder urging the US to unfreeze funds that has led to the collapse of Afghanistan’s domestic economy, and driven millions of Afghans to despondency.

Sanders’ appeal comes a few days after UN secretary general Antonio Guterres called upon Washington and the World Bank to work towards “injecting liquidity” into Afghanistan’s financial system.

Guterres warned last week that the crisis-stricken country was on the brink of “a meltdown that would lead to poverty, hunger and destitution for millions.”

Last month, a group of 46 US Democrats in the House of Representatives, led by Pramila Jayapal, in a letter to Biden asked for modification in the US’ policy of freezing Afghanistan’s assets.

“We fear, as aid groups do, that maintaining this policy could cause more civilian deaths in the coming year than were lost in 20 years of war," read the letter.

Global aid agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), have warned that Washington’s decision to freeze Afghanistan’s funds has fed into an inflationary crisis, drought and hunger.

A top official of the WFP recently termed it the “worst humanitarian crisis on earth” while a senior executive of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) described it as the worst humanitarian disaster he has “ever seen”.

The World Bank in a statement last month said it would release $280 million to the WFP and UNICEF in order to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Afghan population.

“UNICEF will receive $100 million to provide essential health services through providers active in the Sehatmandi programme (rolling out aid through partner NGOs) in partnership with WHO, and WFP will receive $180 million to scale up food security and nutrition operations in the country,” the statement read.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku