US seeks to redirect Afghanistan assets, avoid Taliban
The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced a plan to direct $3.5 billion to a Switzerland bank that will provide economic assistance to Afghanistan while keeping the funds out of Taliban hands.
Along with the State Department, the Treasury said they are creating an account with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) for “targeted disbursements” of the Afghan Fund to alleviate social and economic crises in the Middle Eastern nation.
An external auditor will monitor the disbursement of the Afghan Fund, now officially incorporated as a foundation in Geneva, as the U.S. seeks to ensure the nation’s governing Taliban does not gain access to the money.
Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of State, said on Wednesday the “people of Afghanistan face humanitarian and economic crises born of decades of conflict, severe drought, COVID-19, and endemic corruption.”
“Today, the United States and its partners take an important, concrete step forward in ensuring that additional resources can be brought to bear to reduce suffering and improve economic stability for the people of Afghanistan while continuing to hold the Taliban accountable,” Sherman said in a statement.
A group called the Board of Trustees of the Afghan Fund will authorize disbursements of the fund. The board is made up of two Afghan economic experts, as well as a U.S. government representative and a Swiss government representative.
While the board will assist the Afghanistan people in the short term, a long-term goal for the U.S. and the Afghan Fund is to return the money to the Central Bank of Afghanistan (DAB).
The Treasury on Wednesday said it would not return the money until officials are assured the DAB is insulated from political pressure and is not funding terrorism or money laundering operations.
After the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban swept through the country and reclaimed control, and the U.S. froze economic assistance for the nation.
Under the new government, the Afghanistan people have suffered in a major economic crisis. The United Nations says 24 million people are in need of vital humanitarian relief.
President Biden in February first announced he would split $7 billion in U.S. frozen funds to compensate 9/11 victims and assist the Afghan people, leaving $3.5 billion for each.
The Treasury then issued a license to authorize the transfer of the funds from the DAB for the Afghan people.
Wally Adeyemo, the deputy secretary of the Treasury, promised the U.S. would “work closely with our international partners to facilitate use of these assets to improve the lives of ordinary people in Afghanistan.”
“The Taliban’s repression and economic mismanagement have exacerbated longstanding economic challenges for Afghanistan, including through actions that have diminished the capacity of key Afghan economic institutions and made the return of these funds to Afghanistan untenable,” Adeyemo said in a Wednesday statement.