US President Joe Biden issued an executive order authorizing the release of half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds held in the US for humanitarian aid to be made available for a possible payment to victims of the September 11 attacks.
A massive demonstration in Afghanistan on Saturday condemned Biden’s seizure of $3.5 billion in Afghan assets for families of America’s 9/11 victims.
The protesters pointed out that Afghans had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed about 3,000 Americans.
The demonstrators who gathered in the Afghan capital of Kabul asked the US for financial compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Afghans killed during the 20-year-long US war and occupation of their country.
Afghanistan has about $9 billion in assets overseas, including the $7 billion in the United States. The rest is mostly in Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.
On Friday, Biden signed an executive order allocating $3.5 billion in Afghan assets for humanitarian aid to a trust fund to be managed by the UN to provide aid to Afghans, and $3.5 billion allocated for the victims of the September 11 attacks.
This is while Afghanistan’s economy is teetering on the brink of collapse following a two-decade-long war against the country left it impoverished.
Afghanistan's Central Bank called on Biden to reverse his order and release the funds to it, saying that the funds belonged to the people of Afghanistan and not a government, party or group, according to AP.
Even, Torek Farhadi, a financial adviser to Afghanistan's former government, questioned the United Nations managing Afghan Central Bank reserves, saying the funds are not meant for humanitarian aid but “to back up the country's currency, help in monetary policy and manage the country's balance of payment."
“These reserves belong to the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban ... Biden’s decision is one-sided and does not match with international law,” said Farhadi. “No other country on Earth makes such confiscation decisions about another country’s reserves.”
“What about our Afghan people who gave many sacrifices and thousands of losses of lives?” asked the demonstration's organizer, Abdul Rahman, a civil society activist.
Rahman said demonstrations will be held across Kabul to protest Biden's order. "This money belongs to the people of Afghanistan, not to the United States. This is the right of Afghans,” he said.
Placards in English accused the United States of stealing the money of Afghans.
Taliban political spokesman Mohammad Naeem accused the Biden administration of showing “the lowest level of humanity ... of a country and a nation.”
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the US-based Wilson Center, called Biden's order to divert $3.5 billion away from Afghanistan and allocate to the 9/11 victims “heartless."
It's great that $3.5B in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan has been freed up.— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) February 11, 2022
But to take another $3.5B that belongs to the Afghan people, and divert it elsewhere--that is misguided and quite frankly heartless. At the very least, it should have been retained as leverage.
“It’s great that $3.5B in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan has been freed up. But to take another $3.5B that belongs to the Afghan people, and divert it elsewhere--that is misguided and quite frankly heartless,” he tweeted.
The analyst also said the opposition to Biden's order crossed Afghanistan's wide political divide.
“I can’t remember the last time so many people of such vastly different worldviews were so united over a US policy decision on Afghanistan,” he tweeted.
9/11 was a series of strikes that killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage in the United States.
US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts and independent researchers have raised questions about the official account.
They believe that rogue elements within the US government, such as then-Vice President Dick Cheney, orchestrated or at least encouraged the 9/11 attacks in order to expand funding for the US war machine and intelligence services and to advance the US geopolitical position in the Middle East.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded and occupied Afghanistan, despite the fact that no Afghan was involved in the attacks. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans died in the US war on the country.