Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Tuesday that the US will provide Afghanistan with nearly $55 million in humanitarian aid after an earthquake in the country killed at least 1,000 people, but US sanctions are still in place and are hampering recovery efforts.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021 and the US-backed government collapsed, the US has frozen about $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank reserves as the country is facing massive food shortages. A UN official said in March that malnutrition and food insecurity threaten an “entire generation” in Afghanistan.
The earthquake has exacerbated Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. Besides the 1,000 dead, the earthquake injured over 3,000 people and destroyed 10,000 homes.
Despite the dire situation, the US refuses to release the funds. In February, President Biden announced a plan to make half of the $7 billion in Afghan reserves held by the US Federal Reserve available for the families of 9/11 victims despite the fact that the Afghan people had nothing to do with the attacks.
On top of the frozen reserves, the US maintains sanctions on the Taliban, who now control the Afghan government. The sanctions discourage international banks and companies from doing business with the country.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan is complicating humanitarian aid deliveries because of “excessive” diligence from international financial systems that want to make sure they don’t violate sanctions.