The United States was urged on Tuesday by both China and Russia to release $7 billion of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves that were frozen in the US banking system when the Taliban seized power in the country a year ago.
Afghanistan’s foreign reserves were frozen when the Taliban, following a 20-year conflict, vanquished western-backed forces in August 2021 and seized power last year.
Washington opposes the idea pointing out that it does not want the money to be used to bankroll the Taliban with Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a senior US diplomat, stressing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday that no country would advocate giving the Taliban ready access to $3.5bn in Afghan central bank assets if it is serious about containing terrorism in Afghanistan.
While keeping the funds out of the Taliban’s hands, Washington established this month a $3.5bn foundation to help address the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden, in the meantime, has ordered that half of the Afghan frozen funds be used to create a trust to compensate victims seeking relief for the 9/11 attacks planned by Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda terrorists working under the Taliban’s protection.
China’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Geng Fhung, underscored at the UNSC the urgent need of full and swift return of the frozen assets to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Afghan people and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
His comments were echoed by Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Anna Evstigneeva, who called on the US to give the money back immediately.
Western nations are increasingly alarmed over the Taliban’s enforcement of hardline religious laws more than a year since their return to power and Norway circulated before the Security Council meeting a draft press statement condemning the Taliban’s decision to ban girls from attending high school.
The press statement, however, was not issued since China and Russia insisted that it includes text referring to Afghanistan’s frozen bank assets, straining the negotiations.