- The US seized $7 billion in assets that belonged to the previous Afghan government last week.
- Aims to split funds between 9/11 victims and aid to post-war Afghanistan
- Move gets angry response from Taliban leaders, who labeled seizure “theft”
KABUL: Afghanistan will be forced to rethink its policy toward the United States unless Washington reverses a decision to freeze some of the country’s assets as compensation for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, the officials said. Taliban Monday.
US President Joe Biden last week seized $7 billion in assets belonging to the previous Afghan administration, aiming to distribute the funds between compensation for the victims of September 11, 2001, attacks on the US and much-needed aid for the post-war Afghanistan.
The move provoked an angry response from the new Taliban leaders in the country, who labeled the seizure “theft” and a sign of “moral decay” on the part of the US.
“The 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Afghanistan,” said Monday’s statement, signed by deputy spokesman Inamullah Samangani.
“Any misappropriation of property belonging to the Afghan people under the pretext of this incident is a clear violation of the agreement reached with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the statement added, using the Taliban’s name for the country.
“If the United States does not deviate from its position and continues its provocative actions, the Islamic emirate will also be forced to reconsider its policy towards the country.”
Pushing for justice
Biden’s unusual move saw the conflicting, highly sensitive issues of a humanitarian tragedy in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s struggle for recognition, and the drive for justice for families affected by the 9/11 attacks collide, with billions of dollars spent on the game.
The money, which one US official says comes largely from foreign aid sent to aid the now-defunct West-backed Afghan government, has been trapped in the New York Federal Reserve since the Taliban’s victory last year.
The government appointed by the Taliban – which fought for 20 years against US-led forces and now controls all of Afghanistan – has not been recognized by any other nation, mainly for its human rights record.
However, with an economic crisis gripping the country, Washington is looking for ways to help while avoiding the group.
The White House said Biden will try to funnel $3.5 billion of the frozen funds into a humanitarian aid trust “for the benefit of the Afghan people and the future of Afghanistan.”
The fate of the other $3.5 billion is more complicated.
Families of people killed or injured in the 9/11 hijacked planes on New York and the Pentagon, as well as a fourth who crashed in Pennsylvania, have long struggled to find ways to get compensation from al-Qaeda and others who are responsible.
In US lawsuits, groups of victims won default sentences against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which at the time of the attacks hosted the shadowy terrorist group but were unable to collect money.
They will now have the option to sue for access to the frozen Afghan assets.
Biden’s move appears to have angered a majority of Afghans, even those who oppose the Taliban, who appear to have tapped into that resentment.
“To ensure that the United States avoids international recrimination and does not harm its relations with the Afghan people, it must renounce its decision,” the statement said on Monday.
“Unconditionally release the wealth of Afghans.”