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US ‘usurping’ Afghanistan’s frozen assets: Taliban

Afghans carry sacks of food grains distributed as an aid by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kandahar on October 19, 2021. (File photo by AFP)

The Taliban say the United States has "usurped" Afghanistan’s assets. This after Washington said it was setting up a Geneva-based fund to manage billions of dollars in frozen Afghan reserves.

"The assets of the people of Afghanistan have been usurped by the United States," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday.

"We consider it an invasion of the property of Afghans," he said. "The United States is not the owner of these assets."

The Taliban spokesman called for the release of the funds "without any conditions."

On Wednesday, the US Department of State said in a statement it would transfer $3.5 billion in frozen funds from Afghanistan’s central bank to the newly-established Afghan Fund based in Geneva, Switzerland. Washington claims the transfer is for the good of the Afghan people as hunger grips virtually every province in the country.

The Taliban will not be part of the new fund, which will maintain its account with the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland.

US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Ademeyo said in a letter that sending the money to Afghanistan’s central bank would put the funds at risk of not being used for the benefit of the people.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has frozen over $7 billion in Afghan assets since NATO’s withdrawal from the country and the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban in August 2021.

In February, Washington said half of the assets would be made available to victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The Taliban government in Kabul continues to struggle with the rapidly worsening humanitarian situation in the country amid crippling US sanctions and a shortage of funds.

Millions of Afghans are without work today, the banking system is virtually dysfunctional, medical facilities are lying in shambles and the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history is unfolding. The almost entire Afghan population is living below the poverty line today, according to the United Nations.

US forces occupied Afghanistan for about two decades on the pretext of fighting the Taliban. But when the forces chaotically left Afghanistan, the Taliban stormed the capital Kabul, which had been weakened by continued foreign occupation.

The country has since been in turmoil. The US and its allies have largely suspended their financial assistance to Afghanistan, whose economy is on the verge of collapse. Inflation in the war-ravaged country is soaring, and millions of Afghans are on the brink of starvation.

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