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Afghans protest US order to free up $3.5B in frozen Afghanistan funds to compensate 9/11 victims

Afghans protested Saturday against an executive order President Biden signed a day earlier intended to free up $3.5 billion in frozen Afghanistan funds to go toward compensation for 9/11 victims. 

The protesters held up signs accusing the U.S. of stealing Afghanistan’s money, The Associated Press reported. The demonstration took place in the country’s capital, Kabul, outside a mosque. 

Biden’s executive order is intended to make available $7 billion in assets from Afghanistan’s central bank that is being held up in the U.S., with $3.5 billion of that amount potentially going to humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and the other $3.5 billion to compensation for the families of 9/11 victims.

U.S. federal courts will still need to approve the transfer of half the funds to a trust fund to provide aid for Afghan people as well as victims’ claims to the other half.

This comes as a number of U.S. victims of terrorism, including families of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, are currently pursuing access to the Afghanistan central bank’s funds in federal court.

The assets have been frozen since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last year. For several months, the Biden administration has been exploring ways that it might unlock some of the funds for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan without directly benefitting the Taliban.

The White House said that the order is “designed to provide a path for the funds to reach the people of Afghanistan while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and malicious actors,” the White House said. 

Torek Farhadi, who served as a financial adviser to the U.S.-backed Afghan government before the Taliban took over, questioned the U.S.’s authority to move the assets, according to the AP.

“These reserves belong to the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban … Biden’s decision is one-sided and does not match with international law,” Farhadi said, per the wire service. “No other country on Earth makes such confiscation decisions about another country’s reserves.”

The Taliban have also come out against the move, with political spokesperson Mohammad Naeem saying it showed “the lowest level of humanity … of a country and a nation,” according to the AP.

Tags 9/11 victims Afghanistan Executive Order Humanitarian aid Joe Biden Taliban

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