The US has no plans to release $3.5 billion in frozen funds to Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled central bank, but will look for ways to benefit the country’s people directly, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“We don’t see recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a near-term option,” Price told a briefing. He said the US doesn’t have confidence that the bank will use the money wisely or keep it from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Price’s comments signaled that the Biden administration has abandoned any possibility of releasing the money directly to the government after it was revealed that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been living in the heart of Kabul for some time before he was killed in a drone strike in late July.
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After the US troops withdrew in Afghanistan one year ago, assets were placed on hold and then confiscated by the Taliban. As part of negotiations to settle the matter, US officials met with Uzbekistan’s Taliban leaders.
Zawahiri’s presence on Afghan soil only underscored concerns that the Taliban wouldn’t keep the money from benefiting terrorist groups, Price said.
These funds represent half the $7 billion worth of assets frozen in Afghanistan by US financial institutions. President Joe Biden in February issued an executive order allocating half of the money for distribution to families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, while reserving the remainder for “the benefit of the Afghan people.”
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