American lawmakers urge President Biden to unlock Afghan Central Bank reserves

On Monday, 46 lawmakers wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, requesting that he “conscientiously but urgently” start taking steps to avoid a potential humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. The group was composed of mostly Democratic lawmakers who made the ask. 

The lawmakers suggested that Biden ease ongoing sanctions and unblock the Afghan central bank’s foreign reserves. Washington withheld those funds immediately following the Taliban seizing control of the country from the U.S.-supported government in August.

The letter read, “We are also deeply concerned that sanctions against Taliban officials now in charge of governmental functions are creating a chilling effect for financial institutions and aid organizations serving Afghanistan.”

Later that day, the White House responded, saying not much can be done other than the continuing humanitarian efforts in the country. 

The Afghan economy has been on the verge of collapse since the sanctions and abrupt suspension of international assistance were implemented. Afghanistan had been relying heavily on external aid for the past 20 years over the period of the United States’ longest war to date.

The years of war, drought, and severe poverty in the country increased humanitarian needs, which have now been exacerbated by the sanctions. An estimate from the United Nations says over half the near 40 million residents face starvation, and 1 million children are at risk of dying from “severe acute malnutrition.”

The letter continued, “The U.S. confiscation of $9.4 billion in Afghanistan’s currency reserves held in the United States is contributing to soaring inflation and the shuttering of commercial banks and vital private businesses, plunging the country…deeper into economic and humanitarian crisis.”

The lawmakers argued that “punitive economic policies” will not result in a weaker Taliban force but instead will hurt innocent Afghans who have suffered through war and poverty already. The U.S. has so far not recognized the Taliban government as legitimate, and neither has the rest of the globe. 




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