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Afghans protest unfreezing funds for 9/11 victims

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AP) – Demonstrators in Afghanistan’s capital on Saturday condemned United States (US) President Joe Biden’s order freeing up USD3.5 billion in Afghan assets held in the US 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 on Friday, allocates another USD3.5 billion in Afghan assets for humanitarian aid to a trust fund to be managed by the United Nations (UN) 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 Taleban.

Afghanistan’s Central Bank called on Biden to reverse his order and release the funds to it, saying in a statement on Saturday that they belonged to the people of Afghanistan and not a government, party or group.

Afghan protesters hold placards and shout slogans against the United States during a protest. PHOTO: AP

Financial adviser to Afghanistan’s former US-backed government Torek Farhadi, questioned the UN 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 Taleban… 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.”

White House officials said there is no simple way to make all the frozen assets available quickly to the Afghan people.

September 11 victims and their families have legal claims against the Taleban and the USD7 billion in the US banking system.

Courts would have to sign off before the release of humanitarian assistance money and decide whether to tap the frozen funds for paying out those claims.

In all, Afghanistan has about USD9 billion in assets overseas, including the USD7 billion in
the US.

The rest is mostly in Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.