Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Rob Portman wrote to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday, Aug. 30, pressing her to use everything in her power to prevent billions of dollars in international funds earmarked for Afghanistan from falling into the hands of the “oppressive Taliban regime.”
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan by force and are associated with dangerous terrorist organizations, primarily Al-Qaeda, historic enemies of the United States, especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Given this background, the senators are pushing for the United States and the international financial community not to send funds to Afghanistan at this time, arguing that if they are sent, the beneficiaries will be a criminal and terrorist group.
While recognizing the needs of the Afghan people who face an overwhelming political and economic crisis, the senators understand that as long as the Taliban remain in power, that money will not reach the people.
“The Taliban are sponsors of terrorism who maintain close ties to Al-Qaeda and therefore cannot be trusted to distribute money to the Afghan people who desperately need it, and instead will use any and all funds to actively promote priorities hostile to U.S. interests,” reads the letter signed by Portman and Rubio.
Even the message to Yellen indicates that she should intervene at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure that the Taliban does not receive $450 million in funds allocated for Afghanistan.
While some reports emerged as of mid-August that the Biden Administration had already frozen the Afghan government’s access to its U.S.-based reserve funds after it became clear that the Taliban would take control of Kabul, the reality is that there is no official confirmation to indicate this.
The Central Bank of Afghanistan, according to Ajmal Ahmady, a former president of the entity who recently managed to flee the country, confirmed that DAB’s reserves were almost $10 billion in August. These assets were reportedly held outside the country.
These reserves are the ones that would in principle be blocked by the Biden administration.
According to Ahmady, most of those assets were held outside the country and include U.S. currency and bonds, as well as gold and funding from the World Bank’s Reserve Management and Advisory Partnership (RAMP).
Ahmady noted that the decision by the U.S. and other nations to block reserve funds has cut off the Taliban’s access almost entirely.
The lawmakers understand this decision as “a vital step that must not be reversed under any circumstances,” but further point out that much remains to be done, such as preventing the IMF from handing over to the Taliban funds already earmarked for Afghanistan.
There are also a large number of international funding sources available to the Afghan government, including relief funds such as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which should be explored in conjunction with U.S. allies to prevent them from getting into the hands of the Taliban, the lawmakers noted in the letter.