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This article is part of a Fox News Digital series examining the aftermath of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan a year ago this week.
The US continues to deny “direct” aid to the Taliban and the group is demanding the return of all frozen funds and additional money as Afghanistan continues to suffer from a severe humanitarian crisis.
“There is no rational justification for freezing that reserve and private banks, the money of the Afghan people,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Fox News Digital. “They froze the people’s property.”
“We want [the return] of this property and this money to be thawed, because without it the Afghanistan Bank is unable to function and function normally. And it is necessary for the normal livelihood of the Afghan people for our import and export and other economic activities. “
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan after the United States completely withdrew its military forces in August 2021. The United States and other nations responded by freezing $ 7 billion in assets belonging to the now defunct government, cutting the Taliban with vital funds to help establish their new regime.
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Afghanistan fell into an economic collapse in the following months, soliciting aid from other nations to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people. Likewise, the United States contributed $ 2 billion last year and recently announced plans to send $ 150 million in additional aid, which is filtered through the United Nations into non-governmental organizations or NGOs.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said the Taliban “failed” to provide for the Afghan people and “did just the opposite”.
“The policies of the Taliban repress and starve the Afghan people instead of protecting them,” he said during a UN Security Council briefing. “The exclusion of external voices by the Taliban means that the people who would help alleviate the suffering of these crises are not allowed to help.”
Shaheen insisted that the Taliban did not receive direct funding from the US government, but still demand that the funds be returned to the government.
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“[We] they did not receive money directly from the US government, but in this way they assisted the United Nations, “Shaheen said.” The people above, from the sending humanitarian sector, assisted … we are grateful for all the assistance announced from the United Nations States with the people of Afghanistan, [but] It would have been better if it had been spent by the government. ”
The United States had seen thawing half of the $ 7 billion as a way to help stabilize the Afghan economy as experts warn that the impending winter could cause severe and widespread suffering in the country.
The money would not go directly to the Taliban but would instead filter through a Swiss trust fund that will control the distribution of funds to humanitarian groups. The non-profit organization Save Our Allies warned that the money would still end up in the hands of the Taliban, but the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has denied this claim.
A USAID spokesperson told Fox News Digital that humanitarian assistance “goes directly to independent organizations such as UN agencies and NGOs and will provide vulnerable Afghans with the food they urgently need; health emergencies, including vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 and polio in progress; water and sanitation. health care and other urgent humanitarian aid “.
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But Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield shared concern that the money was not reaching those who needed it, saying instead that the Taliban “made the delivery of humanitarian assistance more difficult.”
“They continue to interfere with the provision of key assistance that the Afghan people desperately need,” he said in his speech to the UN. He stressed the need to ensure that the Taliban do not have “unconditional access to billions of assets” as the Central Bank of Afghanistan “cannot currently conduct responsible monetary policy”.
“Countries that have rolled up their sleeves and tried to tackle this problem, like ours, have seen how the Central Bank of Afghanistan was emptied a long time ago,” he continued. “It does not have a credible anti-money laundering system, it does not have a credible system to combat terrorist financing, and it does not have an independent monitor to verify capacity improvements through technical assistance.
The United States then abandoned plans to unlock the assets when officials discovered Ayman al-Zawahri in Kabul, the Wall Street Journal reported. Officials explained that the presence of the al Qaeda leader in Kabul raised concerns about the resurgence of terrorism in the country.
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The United States conducted a targeted counter-terrorism operation that led to the death of al-Zawahri, but the Taliban spokesman complained in an interview with Fox News Digital that none of the money that entered the country ended up in the hands of terrorist groups.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, noted in a statement, “We don’t see the recapitalization of the Afghan Central Bank as a short-term option … We don’t have confidence that this institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage resources responsibly. “
“It goes without saying that the Taliban’s welcoming of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri reinforces our deep concerns about the diversion of funds to terrorist groups,” West added.
The Taliban spokesman assured that the Kabul regime has given “a clear message” to all “groups or people”.
“If there’s anyone hiding in the country, we’re looking at it. And when we find out we’re not going to allow it,” Shaheen said. “This is a policy”.
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But Shaheen protected his statement, saying that if “someone is hiding” in the country, it “does not mean that the government of the country is in line with it or agrees with it.”
Anders Hangstrom of Fox News contributed to this report.