Since the Taliban took Kabul, the US has seized billions in Afghan funds that are held by the US Federal Reserve, denying the war-torn country access to desperately-needed cash. Aid groups and experts are warning the freezing of these funds is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, causing food and cash shortages.
On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged an additional $64 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, bringing the total of US aid for the country to $330 million this fiscal year alone. But no matter how much aid Washington provides, it will not offset the harm of freezing the cash, which is estimated to be about $9 billion.
In a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he defended the Afghanistan withdrawal, Blinken said the US would bypass the Taliban to deliver the aid by working with the UN and NGOs on the ground. “This aid will not flow through the government,” he said.
The US is using its power over the global financial system as leverage over the Taliban. One thing the US wants is for the Taliban to allow any remaining US citizens or Afghans seeking refuge to leave Afghanistan. At the hearing, Blinken said the US was still working to evacuate people from the country.
“We will continue to help Americans — and Afghans to whom we have a special commitment — depart Afghanistan if they choose,” Blinken said. “There is no deadline to this mission.”
Last week, the first civilian flight left the Kabul airport since the US withdrawal. The plane carried about 100 people, including some Americans, and arrived in Doha. In a statement on the flight, the White House had good things to say about the Taliban.
“The Taliban have been cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA. They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step,” said National Security Council Spokesperson Emily Horne.
For their part, the Taliban have called for relations with the US and wants Washington to reopen its embassy in Kabul. The US has criticized the Taliban’s new caretaker government because it is made up entirely of Taliban members. But history shows, the US’s use of sanctions and economic warfare does little to change governments and only hurts the civilian population of the target country.