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Taliban threaten to reconsider policy toward US over assets freeze

The Taliban have warned the United States that they will be forced to reconsider their policy toward Washington if it refuses to free Afghanistan’s assets.

US President Joe Biden issued an executive order authorizing the release of half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds held in the US for humanitarian aid to be made available for a possible payment to victims of the September 11 attacks.

The move drew an angry response from the Taliban, who described the seizure as “theft” and a sign of the US’s “moral decay.”

“If the United States does not deviate from its position and continues its provocative actions, the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban government) will also be forced to reconsider its policy towards the country,” the Taliban said in a statement signed by deputy spokesman Inamullah Samangani on Monday. “The 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Afghanistan,” it added.

“For the United States to avoid international reproach and not to damage its relations with the Afghan people, it must relinquish its decision,” the statement added.

Afghanistan has about $9 billion in assets overseas, including the $7 billion in the United States. The rest is mostly in Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland.

The US had announced the freeze days after the Taliban took over power in the country on August 15 last year. Ever since, the Taliban have warned of dire economic consequences, and Afghan banks say they are facing money shortage.

The United Nations also warned in October last year that without financial aid or humanitarian relief, Afghanistan was on a “countdown to catastrophe.”

UN agencies have predicted near universal poverty in Afghanistan, with almost three-fourths of the population reliant on food and other aid.

Washington, however, said late last year that it had no plan to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets.

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