Below is the text of an international open letter to US president Joe Biden.
We are writing to express our outrage over your 11 February executive order regarding the $7 billion of Afghan funds invested in the US Federal Reserve Bank.
We believe that your decision to divide the funds in two, with half going to compensate 9/11 families and the other half going to humanitarian aid, is unjust and will cause grave harm to the Afghan people.
Your decision has been denounced by the board of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, which is the same board that existed before the Taliban takeover in August. It has also infuriated Afghans both inside and outside the country, and has been criticised by human rights groups, members of the US Congress, think tanks, and legal organisations.
It rests on the assumption that this money belongs to the Taliban, but it does not. It belongs to the Afghan people. Your decision also misconstrues the purpose of a national reserve. It is not a slush fund that you can hand out to NGOs for humanitarian aid or use to settle court cases. It’s the backbone of a country’s fiscal stability.
Ever since you froze Afghan funds when the Taliban came to power in August, the economy has plunged into freefall. Afghans have not been able to withdraw their savings, salaries have not been paid, businesses have gone bankrupt, and trade has become almost impossible. And all of this is happening just as an especially harsh winter and an extended drought has led to food and fuel shortages and soaring prices.
With millions of Afghans unemployed and going hungry, these funds are critical to get the economy moving again.
Regarding the $3.5 billion you have set aside to satisfy a lawsuit brought by a group of 9/11 families, no Afghans participated in the 9/11 attack. And 20 years on, the majority of Afghans were not even born at the time of the 2001 attack.
The other $3.5 billion that you say will be allocated for humanitarian aid is problematic as well.
Humanitarian aid is already being channelled through the United Nations and a wide variety of NGOs.
Aid alone will not stabilise the economy; in the long run, it will make Afghanistan permanently dependent on charity.
Economic recovery, not aid
Instead, if their own assets were returned, they could fund an organic post-war recovery in which merchants can once more trade, small and large businesses can reopen, homes and shops and businesses can be rebuilt, and farms can be readied for the next planting season.
If your concern is that the Taliban might misuse the money, banking professionals have proposed releasing the money in monthly tranches. Monitors would check exactly where that money goes and what is done with it. The moment anything seems improper, a freeze could instantly be reinstituted.
The alternative, which is letting Afghanistan slide into total economic and social ruin, will have devastating consequences.
Terrorist groups typically recruit young men who have no other means of livelihood. If they can’t earn wages, young Afghans will be vulnerable to recruitment by ISIS, or they will join the one million who have already crossed the border into Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Iran and who will eventually try to get into Europe as refugees.
In the name of benefiting the 9/11 families, your decision will be seeding the ground for the next 9/11.
We call on you to reverse this harmful decision and return the $7 billion to Afghanistan’s Central Bank.