Despite dire warnings that millions are facing starvation in Afghanistan, the US has not moved to release billions in frozen Afghan reserves it seized as the Taliban walked into Kabul. On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a path to the release of the funds to help the Afghan people.
The US has frozen about $9 billion in reserves that belong to Afghanistan’s Central Bank. Most of the funds are being held by the US Federal Reserve. “The function of Afghanistan’s Central Bank must be preserved and assisted, and a path identified for conditional release of Afghan foreign currency reserves,” Guterres said.
“We must do even more to rapidly inject liquidity into the economy and avoid a meltdown that would lead to poverty, hunger, and destitution for millions,” the UN chief added.
Guterres will hold virtual talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday to discuss the Afghanistan situation. Guterres said he will discuss with Blinken ways to establish mechanisms to “allow for an effective injection of funds into the Afghan economy.”
Besides the frozen funds, the US still maintains sanctions on Taliban leaders that now run the Afghan government. The US has responded to the warnings about the crisis by loosening some restrictions on business dealings with the Taliban. But international businesses and financial institutions generally avoid transactions with nations under heavy US sanctions even if there are humanitarian exemptions.
In December, a group of over 40 House Democrats penned a letter to President Biden urging him to release the Afghan reserves. The lawmakers explained that if the warnings coming from international aid groups come true, more people in Afghanistan could die of starvation over the next year than were killed during the 20-year US war on the country.