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U.S. Will Not Release $3.5 Billion in Frozen Afghan Funds for Now, Citing Terror Fears

The Biden administration on Monday said it would immediately remove $3.5 billion in funds held in the United States to central Afghanistan, citing findings that al-Qaeda leaders had taken refuge in the heart of Kabul, apparently under the protection of the Taliban government. He refused to return it to the bank.

The position on funding marks the one-year anniversary of Afghanistan’s takeover by militant Taliban militias and just two weeks after a US drone strike killed Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawari on the balcony of a tied-up house. outlined. to a Taliban coalition faction in an exclusive enclave in the Afghan capital.

“We do not see recapitalization of the DAB as an immediate option,” said Thomas West, the US government’s special representative for Afghanistan, referring to the central bank’s initials. He said American officials have been engaging with the central bank for months on how to strengthen Afghanistan’s economy, but have not secured compelling assurances that the money will not fall into the hands of terrorists. It pointed out.

“We are not confident that the agency has the safeguards and oversight to manage the assets responsibly,” West said in a statement. previously reported by Wall Street Journal. “And needless to say, the Taliban’s protection of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawari reinforces our deepest concerns about the diversion of funds to terrorist groups.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the administration is looking for other ways to spend money to help Afghans at a time when millions are suffering from a hunger crisis.

“We are currently exploring mechanisms that can be put in place to ensure that these $3.5 billion of preserved assets are efficiently and effectively delivered to the people of Afghanistan in ways that are not ripe for diversion. to terrorist groups or elsewhere,” Price said.

The issue of frozen funds remains one of the most sensitive after President Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan for the last time, leading to the collapse of the Western-backed government and the Taliban’s return to power. The White House has been very sensitive to the anniversary’s approach and hopes to see renewed criticism of the chaotic withdrawal of America and the restoration of its harsh regime of oppression, especially for women and girls.

The operation that found and killed al-Zawari only underscored the recent debate. Biden and his allies argue that the success in hunting down al-Zawari shows that the United States can fight terrorists without a large-scale deployment of ground forces. Sept. 2001 His critics criticized Mr. Biden for the recklessness of his decision to leave Afghanistan, showing that the Taliban are again protecting Qaeda figures, as they did before the 9/11 attacks. He points to this operation as evidence.

Secretary of State Antony J. Brinken said Zawari’s presence showed the Taliban had “grossly violated” the withdrawal agreement first negotiated by President Donald J. Trump and executed by Mr. Biden. But the administration has not explained what the consequences will be for the Taliban.the Taliban Didn’t know al-Zawari lived in Kabul with his family, even though the government’s terrorist faction, the Haqqani Clan, appeared to protect him.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that a handful of longtime al-Qaeda members remain in Afghanistan since the drone attacks, but the group has not reconstituted a major presence there since the US withdrawal. But some counter-terrorism experts say this judgment may be too optimistic.

The funds in question on Monday are part of a total of $7 billion deposited in New York’s Federal Reserve by the Central Bank of Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover. Biden decided to freeze the funds and split them in half. One share will be legally pursued by the families of his 9/11 victims, and the other will be used to support the needs of the Afghan people, including humanitarian aid.

The United States is working with allies around the world to establish a $3.5 billion international trust fund to help the people of Afghanistan. Officials said they had made considerable progress in establishing such a trust fund, but did not disclose when it would be established or how it would function.

Afghanistan’s economy collapsed a year after the Taliban takeover, leading to mass hunger and a wave of refugees. announced that it will send $40 million to UNICEF and $30 million to the United Nations to help educate Afghan children, especially girls. Women supporting Afghan women and girls seeking social protection services and running civil society organizations.

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