More than a year after it froze $7 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves in the wake of the Taliban’s military victory, the US has announced it will use half the money to establish a fund at a Swiss bank to help stabilize the cratering Afghan economy. President Joe Biden’s refusal over the past year to allow the Afghan central bank access to its own reserves has caused an economic crisis that has pushed most of the population into extreme poverty and malnutrition. Moreover, in February, Biden announced that he was reserving half of Afghanistan’s money for families of 9/11 victims, sparking international outrage—and yawns from TV news outlets (FAIR.org, 2/15/22). The establishment of the “Afghan Fund” is a half measure that, while almost certain to provide some much needed relief, continues both the unjust theft of half the funds and the hobbling of the country’s recovery by undermining the central bank.
The US government announced on 13 September that it would release a significant portion of the $7 billion stolen Afghan central bank funds to a bank of international settlements in Basel, Switzerland. The trusteeship will help the US to oversee the disbursements of the funds in order to bypass the Taliban government in Kabul. Washington withdrew its financial support for Afghanistan, following the Taliban victory against the US-trained army in 2021. Besides harsh economic sanctions, the US government also froze the funds of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, causing a widespread humanitarian crisis in the country. However, the Taliban rejects the plan of the US to transfer the funds to a Bank of international settlements, arguing that “the [Da Afghanistan Bank] funds belong to DAB and should be returned to Afghanistan,” according to Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban.
NPR ran several stories on Afghanistan to mark the anniversary of the August 2021 US withdrawal, even sending host Steve Inskeep to the country to produce a series of pieces. His visit happened to coincide with Biden’s claimed assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri; Inskeep says that he and his team were staying in close proximity to the Al Qaeda leader. With the anniversary and assassination providing a renewed focus on Afghanistan, NPR could have used this opportunity to call attention to the US policy of starving Afghanistan by restricting its international trade activity and seizing its central banking reserves.
The mid-point of August is an important moment in history for Afghanistan and the world. It marks the anniversary of the Taliban’s ouster of large portions of the U.S. military from Afghanistan, putting a formal end to a two-decade occupation. U.S. forces left Afghanistan just as murderously as they came in. Joe Biden’s administration oversaw numerous war crimes during its haphazard “withdrawal” on August 15th 2021. This included a drone strike that killed ten civilians and at least seven children. The cost of the twenty-year total siege of Afghanistan is well documented. According to Brown University’s Cost of War project , at least forty-six thousand civilians were murdered by U.S. occupation forces, along with another fifty-three thousand opposition fighters. Another 60,000 were killed in Pakistan.
The government of US President Joe Biden has decided not to return Afghanistan’s foreign reserves and suspended talks with Taliban officials over the issue. “We do not see recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a near-term option,” US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West told the Wall Street Journal on 15 August, exactly one year after the Taliban took control of Kabul. “We do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly,” the US official added. The decision is allegedly related to the US drone strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul last month. “Needless to say, the Taliban’s sheltering of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups,” West told the Journal.
In the first part of a series of reports on Afghanistan, NPR host Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition, 8/5/22) interviewed current Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid. In introducing Yaqoob on air, Inskeep referenced Yaqoob’s father, the former head of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar: “He was the leader who refused to turn over Osama bin Laden in 2001, a refusal that led to the US attack.” In the online version of the article, NPR wrote: “Omar also sheltered Osama bin Laden, and refused to turn over the Al Qaeda leader when the United States demanded him after 9/11.” This line that the Taliban “refused to turn over Osama bin Laden,” and that this “led to the US attack,” though part of the commonly accepted chronology of the war, is a gross distortion of history.
Pentagon contractors operating in Afghanistan over the past two decades raked in nearly $108 billion—funds that "were distributed and spent with a significant lack of transparency," according to a report published Tuesday. "These contracts show the shadowy 'camo economy' at work in Afghanistan," said report author Heidi Peltier, director of programs for the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. "Military contracting obscures where and how taxpayer money flows, who profits, and how much is lost to waste, fraud, and abuse," she added. "It also makes it difficult to know how many people are employed, injured, and killed through military contracting."
President Joe Biden’s assassination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan was illegal under both U.S. and international law. After the CIA drone strike killed Zawahiri on August 2, Biden declared, “People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer.” What we should fear instead is the dangerous precedent set by Biden’s unlawful extrajudicial execution. In addition to being illegal, the killing of Zawahiri also occurred in a moment when the United Nations had already determined that people in the U.S. had little to fear from him. As a United Nations report released in July concluded, “Al Qaeda is not viewed as posing an immediate international threat from its safe haven in Afghanistan because it lacks an external operational capability and does not currently wish to cause the Taliban international difficulty or embarrassment.”
I have been asked to join my fellow panelists in speaking about U.S. interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. For some reason, our government has never been able to articulate these interests, but, judging by the fiscal priority Americans have assigned to these three countries in this century, they must be immense – almost transcendent. Since we invaded Afghanistan in 2001, we have spent more than $5 trillion and incurred liabilities for veterans’ disabilities and medical expenses of at least another trillion dollars, for a total of something over $6 trillion for military efforts alone. This is money we didn’t spend on sustaining, still less improving, our own human and physical infrastructure or current and future well-being. We borrowed almost all of it. Estimates of the costs of servicing the resulting debt run to an additional $8 trillion over the next few decades.
An earthquake which has been called the deadliest in two decades hit Afghanistan on June 22. The latest reports indicate that nearly 1000 people have died and the death toll is likely to increase as more reports are received from remote, cut-off areas. It is feared that crucial rescue help needed in the first 24 hours or so may not reach many people buried under rubble. Rescue effort has also been hampered by heavy rain in several areas, according to initial reports. Some reports have already quoted survivors as stating that entire villages have been devastated. In assessing the situation three factors should be considered. Firstly, Afghanistan has already been in the middle of a very serious humanitarian crisis for quite some time.
New York – Afghan civil society groups are opposing the effort by a group of 9/11 families and other U.S. victims to seize billions of dollars from the Central Bank of Afghanistan to satisfy judgments against the Taliban. In an amicus brief filed yesterday, they argue that the $3.5 billion in blocked assets belongs to the people of Afghanistan and should be used to stabilize the economy and alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe there. At issue are $7.1 billion that the previous government of Afghanistan placed in the New York Federal Reserve. After the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Biden Administration froze the funds. In February, President Biden signed an executive order effectively allocating half for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan and leaving half subject to litigation brought by some of the 9/11 families.
Following 20 long years (2011-2021) of brutal war on Afghanistan by the U.S.-led military coalition, which ended up delivering the country to the Taliban in August 2021, 23 million Afghans now face a devastating humanitarian crisis: severe and acute hunger, economic bankruptcy, healthcare system collapse and unbearable family indebtedness. People in Afghanistan are today facing a food insecurity and malnutrition crisis of “unparalleled proportions,” Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy special representative for the U.N. secretary general, reported on March 15. “The rapid increase in those experiencing acute hunger – from 14 million in July 2021 to 23 million in March 2022 – has forced households to resort to desperate measures such as skipping meals or taking on unprecedented debt to ensure there is some food on the table at the end of the day.”
Former senior advisor the Secretary of Defense Col. Doug Macgregor joins Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate for a candid, live discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war and his time in the Trump administration when an Afghan withdrawal was sabotaged and conflict with Iran and Syria continued.
With his Executive Order redefining Afghanistan’s Fiscal Reserve as a slush fund to be disbursed on his whim and with the stroke of his pen, President Biden has taken what may well be the final step in an experiment gone amok. The U.S. first attempted to make Afghanistan into a Western democracy, instead installed a kleptocracy, made Afghans endure 20 years of violence and then left in a whirlwind of chaos. With Biden’s latest move to deprive Afghanistan of its monetary reserves, the nation is likely to come full circle, turning once again into a failed state that, in the absence of economic recovery, will become a breeding ground for extremism and the recruitment of terrorists.
With the UN reporting that hunger in Afghanistan could kill more civilians than the 20-year Afghanistan war, an international debate is raging over the policy by the U.S. and other governments about getting aid to that country. The president just announced a plan to confiscate $7 Billion in Afghan funds and set aside half of it for families of 9/11 victims and to create a "third-party trust fund" to pay for humanitarian aid with the other half. Critics of the decision, including those who worked for the former U.S.-backed Afghan government, lambasted Biden's decision saying that the currency reserves belong to the Afghan people. With those debates as a background, peace groups and humanitarian groups are coming together in a Valentine's Day Vigil to memorialize the loss of life and to ask that the U.S. change its policies.