World: Biden administration refuses to release $7 billion in frozen funds from Afghanistan after US forces found and killed Al Qaeda's leader in Kabul

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A Taliban fighter secures the area as people queue to receive cash at a money distribution site organized by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Petros Giannakouris/AP © Petros Giannakouris/AP A Taliban fighter secures the area as people queue to receive cash at a money distribution site organized by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Petros Giannakouris/AP
  • The Taliban's hopes of getting ahold of the $7 billion in frozen funds have for now been dashed.
  • The Biden administration has ruled out releasing any of the frozen assets, the WSJ reported Monday.
  • The administration stopped talks with the Taliban after the head of al Qaeda was found in Kabul.

The Taliban's hopes of getting its hands on $7 billion in reserves in Afghanistan's central bank have for now been dashed as the Biden administration rules out releasing the frozen assets that have been held by the US for the last year, according to a new report.

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The Biden administration will not release any of the funds, and it has suspended talks with the Taliban on the matter after the US found and killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike late last month in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, US officials told The Wall Street Journal in a report published on Monday.

"We do not see recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a near-term option," US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West told the Journal in a statement.

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"We do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly," West added.

West also said that the Taliban's harboring of al-Zawahiri — who was heavily involved in planning the horrific 9/11 terror attacks and who has been leading Al Qaeda since Osama bin Laden's death in 2011 — heightened US concerns about releasing the funds.

"Needless to say, the Taliban's sheltering of al Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups," West told the Journal.

Shortly after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021 following the swift defeat of the Afghan army and stunning collapse of the Afghan government, the US and its international partners froze most of the country's central bank's nearly $10 billion in assets.

While the US is holding $7 billion in New York, another roughly $2 billion in frozen funds are being held by other countries.

Until recently, the US and the Taliban had been negotiating the release of $3.5 billion in Afghanistan's reserves, it was previously reported.

Last week, more than 70 economists and experts sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, urging the administration to release the $7 billion in frozen reserve funds.

The economists argued that Afghanistan's central bank needs the funds to help the struggling country combat severe economic and humanitarian woes, such as high inflation and a populace on the brink of starvation, among other concerns.

"The Taliban government has done horrific things, including but not limited to its appalling treatment of women and girls, and ethnic minorities," they wrote. "However, it is both morally condemnable and politically and economically reckless to impose collective punishment on an entire people for the actions of a government they did not choose."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Republicans ramp up criticism of Biden over Afghanistan .
Republicans are amplifying their demands three months before November's midterm elections for President Joe Biden and his administration to be transparent over the deadly Afghanistan withdrawal one year after the Taliban toppled the U.S.-supported government following two decades of war. Republican criticism seeks, in part, to harden public opinion against Biden's handling of the withdrawal, which has become a defining moment of his presidency and precipitated a drop in his job approval, before this election cycle.

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