Biden Signs Order to Free $7 Billion in Frozen Afghan Funds for Afghan People, 9/11 Victims

Aldgra Fredly
By Aldgra Fredly
February 12, 2022Afghanistanshare
Biden Signs Order to Free $7 Billion in Frozen Afghan Funds for Afghan People, 9/11 Victims
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his administration's efforts to increase manufacturing, during an event in the South Court Auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 8, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday releasing $7 billion in frozen Afghan reserves held in the United States, dividing the funds between humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Afghanistan had over $9 billion in reserves held outside of the country, including $7 billion in reserves held in the United States. The rest is largely in Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, and other states.

Speaking to reporters, senior U.S. administration officials said the administration will seek to “facilitate access of $3.5 billion” of the Afghan funds held by the Federal Reserve of New York “for the benefit of the Afghan people and for Afghanistan’s future.”

A third-party trust fund will be established to administer the money for the Afghan people, though this mechanism is still being studied, they said.

Washington said the action aims to provide “a path forward for the assets to reach and benefit the Afghan people, keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and other malicious actors.”

The other half of the frozen funds will remain in the United States, subject to ongoing litigation by U.S. victims of terrorism, including the families of 9/11 victims. Nearly 3,000 people died in the al-Qaida attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

The officials said that the U.S. claimants would be given “a full opportunity” to pursue claims in court.

They stressed the allocated funds will be used for the benefits of the Afghan people and not be “a direct benefit” to the Taliban, which seized power last year after U.S. troops withdrew, as the United States refused to recognize the Taliban government.

The Taliban has repeatedly called for the United States to release the assets frozen, citing the country’s humanitarian and economic crisis.

The United Nations issued an appeal for nearly $5 billion, its largest-ever appeal for one country, estimating that nearly 90 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million population were surviving below the poverty level.

Taliban political spokesperson Mohammad Naeem on Friday criticized the Biden administration for not releasing all the funds to Afghanistan.

The Biden administration pushed back against criticism that all $7 billion should be released to Afghanistan, arguing that the 9/11 claimants under the U.S. legal system have a right to claim access to the funds in court.

The Justice Department had signaled months ago that the administration was poised to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by 9/11 victims and families in New York City. The deadline for that filing had been pushed back until Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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