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Biden extends freeze on Afghanistan’s foreign reserves

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KABUL – In a move echoing his earlier executive order, US President Joe Biden has declared an extension of the freeze on Afghanistan’s foreign reserves. This decision, announced today, extends the freeze initiated on February 11, 2022, amplifying Washington’s response to Afghanistan’s pressing humanitarian crisis and its associated security risks.

The initial executive order, issued amidst growing concerns over Afghanistan’s plight, prioritized urgent humanitarian needs such as food security, livelihood support, and essential healthcare services. Biden’s latest announcement reaffirms the gravity of the situation, citing ongoing threats to US national security and foreign policy interests stemming from the Afghan crisis.

In a statement released via the White House website, President Biden emphasized the critical importance of safeguarding specific assets held by Afghanistan’s Central Bank (DAB) within the United States. These assets, he stressed, are indispensable for addressing the national emergency and ensuring the well-being of the Afghan populace.

Acknowledging legal claims from various quarters, including victims of terrorism, President Biden maintained the freeze on DAB assets as per the executive order. This decision reflects the intricate balance between legal obligations and humanitarian imperatives.

Despite appeals from Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, for the release of frozen assets, the US administration stands firm. Muttaqi reiterated this plea during the recent “Afghanistan Regional Cooperation Initiative” meeting in Kabul, underscoring the assets’ crucial role in stabilizing Afghanistan’s economy.

Following the Taliban’s ascendancy in August 2021, the US froze over $9.5 billion of Afghanistan’s assets, with a significant portion held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. While $3.5 billion was later transferred to a special fund in Switzerland, the bulk of these funds remain under US control.

This continued freeze on Afghanistan’s foreign reserves highlights the intricate challenges of navigating humanitarian crises within the bounds of international law and diplomacy. As Afghanistan confronts a spectrum of issues, including political instability and economic turbulence, the fate of its frozen assets looms large on the global stage.

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