US establishes trust with $3.5b in frozen Afghan funds to skirt Taliban

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The Biden administration moved Wednesday to establish a foundation for managing $3.5 billion in frozen Afghan funds, according to sources, skirting Taliban in their efforts to having hands on what is known to be the last shot to stabilize country’s economy.

This came a month after, United States President Joe Biden’s administration said it will press ahead with talks on releasing billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s foreign-held assets, after continued pressures by the international community.

With Several international partners, the US government announced the creation of a foundation based in Switzerland that will use the money help address the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where more than half of the population are starving.

“Pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14064, President Biden set a policy of enabling $3.5 billion of Afghan central bank reserves to be used for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and other malign actors,” said US Treasury department in statement.

“The Afghan Fund will protect, preserve, and make targeted disbursements of that $3.5 billion to help provide greater stability to the Afghan economy,” the statement further said.

Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, former Minister of Commerce and Industry of Afghanistan, Shah Mohammad Mehrabi, a member of the Supreme Council of Da Afghanistan Bank, and Scott C. Miller, the US Ambassador to Switzerland, as well as a person from the Swiss Foreign Ministry, are the trustees of this fund and will decide on the assets of Afghanistan, as TOLOnews wrote.

“We will help the people of Afghanistan as the economy of Afghanistan faces serious structural issues that no amount of external support can resolve of its own, and the US has made clear to the Taliban that the onus is on them to make key reforms,” said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

“This fund will protect and preserve the Afghan Central Bank reserves while making targeted disbursements to help stabilize their economy and, ultimately, support its people and work to alleviate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis,” Price further stated.

But the Afghan Ministry of Economy asked the US government to hand over the frozen assets of Afghanistan to the Da Afghanistan Bank (Central Bank). This way, they will be able to prioritize best for what is needed in the country.

“No one has the right to place conditions on how and by whom these funds should be used,” said Abdul Latif Nazari, deputy of the ministry, as local media quoted.

The decision to pursue the initiative to help stabilize Afghanistan’s collapsed economy underscores growing concern in Washington over a humanitarian crisis, as the United Nations warns that nearly half the country’s 40 million people face “acute hunger”.

Afghanistan’s economic and humanitarian crises deepened when Washington and other donors halted aid that funded 70% of the government budget following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021.

In February, President Biden signed an executive order to free $7 billion in Afghan assets now frozen in the US, splitting the money between humanitarian aid for poverty-stricken Afghanistan and a fund for families of 9/11 victims still seeking relief for the attacks that killed thousands.

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