Carrying signs that read “Let us eat” and “Give us our frozen money,” hundreds of Afghans marched in Kabul on Tuesday calling for the US to release billions in Afghan government reserves as the country is facing a dire humanitarian crisis.
The Associated Press reported that the protesters marched towards the shuttered US embassy in Kabul, with the Taliban providing security.
In August, after the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, the US froze approximately $9 billion in Afghan reserves. On top of the frozen funds, the US maintains sanctions on Taliban leaders, discouraging international financial institutions from doing business with the Taliban-led government.
The UN and aid groups are warning that millions could starve to death in Afghanistan if conditions don’t change. The UN’s World Food Program has said about 8.7 million Afghans are “nearing famine,” and UNICEF is warning 1 million children under five could starve to death over the next year.
Despite the potential catastrophe, the Biden administration does not appear to have plans to release the money. The US has pledged millions in humanitarian assistance, but aid groups say it is not enough to stave off the crisis.
Over 40 House Democrats penned a letter to President Biden urging him to release the funds. “We fear, as aid groups do, that maintaining this policy could cause more civilian deaths in the coming year than were lost in 20 years of war,” the letter reads.