KABUL, Afghanistan — Demonstrators in Afghanistan’s capital Saturday condemned President Joe Biden’s order freeing up $3.5 billion in Afghan assets held in the U.S. for families of America’s 9/11 victims — saying the money belongs to Afghans.
Protesters who gathered outside Kabul’s grand Eid Gah mosque asked America for financial compensation for the tens of thousands of Afghans killed during the last 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
Biden’s order, signed Friday, allocates another $3.5 billion in Afghan assets for humanitarian aid to a trust fund to be managed by the U.N. to provide aid to Afghans. The country’s economy is teetering on the brink of collapse after international money stopped coming into Afghanistan with the arrival in mid-August of the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s Central Bank called on Biden to reverse his order and release the funds to it, saying in a statement Saturday that they belonged to the people of Afghanistan and not a government, party or group.
Torek Farhadi, a financial adviser to Afghanistan’s former U.S.-backed government, questioned the U.N. managing Afghan Central Bank reserves. He said those funds are not meant for humanitarian aid but “to back up the country’s currency, help in monetary policy and manage the country’s balance of payment.”
He also questioned the legality of Biden’s order.
“These reserves belong to the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban … Biden’s decision is one-sided and does not match with international law,” said Farhadi. “No other country on Earth makes such confiscation decisions about another country’s reserves.”
Afghanistan is home to approximately $9 billion of assets, which includes the $7 billion that it has in the United States. Most of the rest are located in Germany and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Switzerland.
“What about our Afghan people who gave many sacrifices and thousands of losses of lives?” asked the demonstration’s organizer, Abdul Rahman, a civil society activist.
Rahman said he planned to organize more demonstrations across the capital to protest Biden’s order. “This money belongs to the people of Afghanistan, not to the United States. This is the right of Afghans,” he said.
English-language placards that were misspelled accused the United States, in English, of cruelty and of taking the Afghans’ money.
Taliban political spokesman Mohammad Naeem accused the Biden administration in a tweet late Friday of showing “the lowest level of humanity … of a country and a nation.”
Biden’s Friday order generated a social media storm with Twitter saying #USA_stole_money_from_afghan was trending among Afghans. Multiple tweets pointed out that 9/11 hijackers were Saudis and not Afghans.
Obaidullah Baheer, a lecturer at the American University in Afghanistan and a social activist, tweeted: “Let’s remind the world that #AfghansDidntCommit911 and that #BidenStealingAfgMoney!”
Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda’s leader was brought by Afghan warlords to Afghanistan after he had been expelled from Sudan in June 1996. These same warlords would later allegise with the U.S. coalition in order to defeat the Taliban in 2001. But, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 that claimed thousands of lives, Mullah Mohammad Omran the Taliban leader refused to give bin Laden to America.
Still, some analysts took to Twitter to question Biden’s order.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, called Biden’s order to divert $3.5 billion away from Afghanistan “heartless.”
“It’s great that $3.5B in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan has been freed up. But to take another $3.5B that belongs to the Afghan people, and divert it elsewhere–that is misguided and quite frankly heartless,” he tweeted.
Kugelman also said the opposition to Biden’s order crossed Afghanistan’s wide political divide.
“I can’t remember the last time so many people of such vastly different worldviews were so united over a US policy decision on Afghanistan,” he tweeted.