The Biden administration stated that it would not release $3.5 billion in blocked Afghan funding on the first anniversary of the Taliban’s invasion, citing the arrest of Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri in Kabul.
The United States has ruled out providing the funds anytime soon, according to an American official, according to a report in The New York Times published on Tuesday.
Tom West, the special representative for Afghanistan at the State Department, told reporters in Washington that he did not “view recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a near-term option.”
He continued: “Deep worries we have regarding the diversion of cash to terrorist organizations are reinforced by the Taliban’s protection of Al Qaeda commander Ayman al Zawahiri.”
The administration refuses, citing Zawahiri’s discovery as justification.
Although Ayman al Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul has directly impacted how the administration approaches the Taliban, a National Security Council (NSC) official told CNN that “there has been no change” in attempts to get the monies to the Afghan people.
“Recent disclosures about the Taliban’s blatant disregard for the terms of the Doha agreement highlight the significance of maintaining objectivity in our interactions with the Taliban. According to the NSC spokesperson, we will continue to consider this reality in how we handle the future of these assets.
The Biden administration clarified its stance on the funds, according to the New York Times, “just over two weeks after an American drone strike killed Ayman al Zawahiri on the balcony of a house tied to a faction of the Taliban coalition in an exclusive enclave of the Afghan capital” and on the anniversary of the extremist Taliban militia’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Mr. West emphasized that despite months of discussions between American officials and the central bank on how to support Afghanistan’s economy, no convincing assurances that the money wouldn’t end up in terrorist hands had been obtained.
In a statement by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. West stated, “We do not have confidence that the institution has the controls and supervision in place to handle assets properly.” And the Taliban’s protection of Al Qaeda commander Ayman al Zawahiri confirms our severe concerns about diverting funding to terrorist organizations.
The government is looking for alternative methods to use the funds to assist Afghans at a time when millions are suffering from a worsening hunger crisis, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price during a news briefing.
The Biden administration struggles to help destitute Afghans, evacuate US allies, and preserve women’s rights in a country that formerly enjoyed unrivaled authority. The Washington Post highlighted that a year after the withdrawal of US forces, “the Biden administration holds minimal leverage in Afghanistan.”
According to the article, US officials are currently “working with Islamic organizations and countries, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as they seek to employ the few tools they have to influence the Taliban government — sanctions and travel bans, as well as the promise of potential diplomatic recognition — in hopes of preventing terrorist attacks, assisting US-linked Afghans to emigrate, and recovering an American hostage.”