The new US special envoy for Afghanistan responded Friday to an appeal from the Taliban for Washington to release billions in frozen Afghan funds. Thomas West, who recently replaced Zalmay Khalilzad, said the Taliban would have to first “earn” legitimacy.
“Legitimacy & support must be earned by actions to address terrorism, establish an inclusive government, & respect the rights of minorities, women & girls — including equal access to education & employment,” West wrote on Twitter.
In the wake of the US withdrawal, Afghanistan is facing a dire humanitarian crisis. West reminded the Taliban that the country was facing a crisis before the US left, which would be obvious to anyone who lived in Afghanistan during the 20-year war waged by the US.
“Afghanistan was unfortunately already suffering a terrible humanitarian crisis before mid-August, made worse by war, years of drought, & the pandemic,” West said. The envoy added that the US warned that a Taliban take over would result in the cutting off of international aid.
“US officials made clear to the Taliban for years that if they pursued a military takeover rather than a negotiated settlement with fellow Afghans then critical non-humanitarian aid provided by the international community — in an economy enormously dependent on aid, including for basic services — would all but cease. That is what occurred,” he said.
The US has seized about $9 billion in funds that previously belonged to the US-backed government. An argument could be made that since the former government was propped up by US aid, the money belongs to Washington. But the frozen money was already in possession of the Afghan government and was used to fund the infrastructure the US left behind.
By freezing the money, the US has left a country it destroyed cash-strapped and unable to fund basic services, and the people suffering the most are civilians. The US has authorized a few hundred million in humanitarian aid, but the easiest way to help the country would be to unfreeze its assets and lift sanctions on the Taliban.