KABUL, Afghanistan – In order to tackle the ongoing hunger crisis in Afghanistan, the United States administration is working with Taliban leadership on a mechanism to allow the use of its central bank reserves without giving the so-called Islamic Emirate free rein, according to reports.
The efforts aim to avert a humanitarian disaster, which the aid groups estimate could harm half the population of Afghanistan’s 40million citizens.
Afghanistan faces catastrophe partly because the Biden administration froze billions of dollars in the country’s reserves after the collapse of the U.S.-backed government last August, as Washington Post reported.
The decision, on top of sanctions on its banking sectors, plunged Afghanistan into financial calamity that has deprived it of money needed to buy foods and other imports on which the country is heavily dependent.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said in May that more than half of Afghanistan’s population is dependent on life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection, suggesting one in two people do not know where their next meal come from.
Facing that emergency, as well as a devastating earthquake that struck the eastern part of the country this month, Biden aides have begun talks to restore to the Afghan government at least partial use of the frozen funds that are kept in U.S. institutions, the report stated.
In negotiations with Taliban officials, they have tried to set up a system through which career central bankers and bureaucrats could manage the assets to stabilize the Afghan economy — while simultaneously erecting safeguards that would ensure the funds are not siphoned off for misuse by the Taliban, the people familiar with the matter said.
“It would be accurate to say negotiations are underway,” said Shah Mehrabi, an economics professor at Montgomery College in Maryland and a senior member Afghanistan’s central bank board since 2002, as Washington Post quoted. “We are in the process of trying to come up with a mechanism that will allow the transfer of reserves to the central bank of Afghanistan.”
Mehrabi refused to comment on the details of the negotiation. He said the talks are ongoing between the US government and Taliban officials, stressing the “mechanism has not been finalized by all parties involved.”
“These reserves belong to the Afghan people; they are needed to stabilize prices,” he said. “The faster it is delivered to the central bank of Afghanistan, the sooner we will see the impact of the reduction in prices that are critical to enable ordinary Afghans to afford food, cooking oil, and sugar and fuel. Now, they can’t do that.”
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In April, At least 14 UN independent rights experts blame the United States and Islamic Emirate government for adding up to the challenges Afghan women go through, as the country suffer asset freeze since the takeover in August 15, 2021.
Da Afghanistan Bank (also known as the Afghan central bank) funds have been frozen since the collapse of former government, paralyzing its operations that regulate all banking and money handling in Afghanistan.
While the United Nations and foreign governments condemned Taliban leadership for suppressing women’s rights, including the right to girl’s education, a statement by the UN independent rights experts hold the US government accountable for making life worse for Afghan women through blocking central bank assets.
But the US Department spokesperson denies its contribution to the hardship faced by Afghan women under the Taliban rule, saying the statement contained “serious mistakes”.
The ongoing political crisis since the takeover last August has “hit hard” private sectors in Afghanistan, where businesses were halted and put to uncertainty, according to a latest survey conducted by the World Bank.