US, Taliban Talk Today To Release Frozen Afghan Funds After Earthquake

Afghanistan: The Taliban took over in August 2021 after the US abandoned a 20-year military effort. (File)

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The United States and the Taliban plan are in talks in Qatar on Thursday to unlock some of Afghan’s reserves after a devastating earthquake, officials said, as Washington looks for ways to ensure the money goes to the population.

The White House said it was working “urgently” on the effort, but a member of the Afghan central bank’s board of directors said it could take some time to complete.

The Taliban’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, has arrived in the Qatari capital of Doha along with the finance ministry and the central bank, said Hafiz Zia Ahmed, spokesman for the Taliban’s foreign ministry.

The State Department said its envoy to Afghanistan, Tom West, would participate and said the United States was targeting a range of interests, including human rights and opening schools for girls.

“None of these agreements should be seen as ‘legitimizing’ the Taliban or their so-called government, but it merely reflects the reality that we must have such discussions to advance American interests,” a US spokesperson said. state. ministry, which does not recognize the Taliban rule over Afghanistan.

The Taliban took over in August 2021 after the United States abandoned a 20-year military effort.

Washington froze $7 billion in reserves at the time and the international community withdrew billions in direct aid that Afghanistan and its population of about 40 million people had relied on.

The currency has collapsed and the country has entered a serious economic crisis, although some aid has recovered.

Last week’s earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale in eastern Afghanistan, which killed more than 1,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless, makes the financing debate even more urgent.

“Negotiations are underway and we expect a final proposal under discussion to be finalized,” said Shah Mehrabi, a member of the Supreme Council of the Central Bank of Afghanistan.

However, details on “the mechanism to transfer the reserves to the Central Bank are not yet finalized,” he told AFP.

“It’s going to take a while. These things don’t happen overnight.”

‘Get these funds moving’

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press officer, said last weekend that efforts are being made to “remove these funds” from frozen reserves.

“We are urgently working to resolve complex questions about how to use these funds to ensure they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban,” she told reporters who traveled to Europe with President Joe Biden.

It involves $3.5 billion in frozen reserves, half of the total blocked by the US government.

“I’ve argued that these reserves should be released to the Central Bank,” said Mehrabi, who is also an economics professor at Montgomery College in the US capital’s suburbs.

He proposed a “limited, controlled release of reserves” of about $150 million a month to pay for the imports.

That would help “stabilize prices and meet the needs of ordinary Afghans so they can afford to buy bread, cooking oil, sugar and fuel,” and alleviate the misery of families facing high inflation. , he said.

The use of the funds “may be independently audited and audited by outside accounting firms with an option to terminate in the event of misuse,” he said.

The United Nations has warned that half of the country is threatened with food shortages.

The United States previously said it was contributing nearly $55 million to relief efforts made more urgent by the earthquake by sending aid to groups working in Afghanistan.

The Taliban are still considered a terrorist group by the United States, which has insisted that any improvement in relations would depend on addressing key concerns, including the treatment of women.

Biden gave the go-ahead in February for the other half of the frozen reserves to compensate the survivors and families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which led to the invasion that saw the United States overthrow the Taliban and create a pro-Western government. for two decades.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)

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