The Afghanistan Bulletin
U.S. Release of Afghan Reserves Will Bypass the Taliban Regime
Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis is considered one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies. The crisis still remains and is more urgent after the withdrawal of international forces and diplomatic missions and the takeover of the Taliban in August 2021. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has stated that by the middle of 2022, “Afghanistan could face ‘universal poverty’ with 97% of Afghans living below the World-Bank designated international poverty line of $1.90 a day”. Many factors play into the role of Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis such as decades of war, COVID-19, widespread food insecurity, recurring natural hazards, drought, and chronic poverty. Since the Taliban returned to power, the situation has only gotten worse. Foreign funding has ceased, the economy is collapsing, and the regime is transparently incapable of running the country.
Following the Taliban takeover, the US and its international partners froze about $10 billion of the country's reserve assets due its repressive rule and the Taliban's ties with terrorist groups. On September 14th, the Biden administration announced that it will create a new Swiss-based fund out of Afghanistan’s frozen central bank reserves. The purpose of the fund is to alleviate the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis without enriching the Taliban, which rejected many compromise deals earlier in the year. The new oversight body will deploy $3.5 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves to help with the economy. While the new fund is aimed to facilitate the country’s humanitarian crisis, the fund will not be accessible to the Taliban. This is because the Biden administration and other analysts have said the Taliban “cannot be trusted to administer such substantial amounts of money.”
The fund will be able to relieve some but not all stresses of Afghanistan’s society and economy. It will be able to help with malnutrition, in which millions of Afghans have just enough food to survive. The fund will be able to help reduce child labor. Previously, a study by NGO named Save the Children estimated one million children were forced into child labor. The reserves also could provide support and aid for those who are aiming for education. Although the fund relieves some issues, it is not enough to meet the country’s needs. While the Biden administration plans to create the new fund, it is unclear how the Taliban will react. The Taliban has imposed strict regulations in Afghanistan, such as a women’s lack of access to education, and the regime is responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and violations of fundamental freedoms. Creating the fund as part of the Biden administration's efforts could sway or minimize the Taliban's intentions in Afghanistan.
One year into power the Taliban has barely changed since the regime was last in power in 1996. Taliban's continued repressive rule and crackdown on women's rights and civil society, as well as its ties with terrorist groups, as seen in the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Aiman-al-Zawahiri in downtown Kabul, indicate the regime's unreliability. It is time to further get tough on the Taliban regime: halt all kinds of diplomatic engagement — except when it comes to delivering humanitarian aid— and re-impose a full travel ban on the group’s leadership. It is essential for the U.S. to limit its engagement with the Taliban to negotiating a set of principles for delivering aid, which include Taliban noninterference with the work of aid agencies. It is also becoming more and more apparent that Taliban officials are manipulating humanitarian aid by choosing which aid recipients they will accept and by directing aid organizations to recruit workers from lists they provide. The United Nations and the U.S. should look into this and find effective ways to further weaken Taliban’s influence on delivering humanitarian aid.