‘Theft’: Advocates decry US decision to withhold Afghan funds

President Joe Biden’s decision to effectively seize the Afghan central bank’s funds in the United States and repurpose half of the money as compensation to the victims of the 9/11 attacks has drawn rebuke and accusations of “theft” against Washington.

Biden issued an executive order on Friday that would split $7.1bn belonging to Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) almost evenly between humanitarian assistance to the struggling country and funds to cover judgements from lawsuits that 9/11 victims and their families had filed against the Taliban in US courts.

“What Biden is proposing is not justice for 9/11 families, it is theft of public funds from an impoverished nation already on the brink of famine and starvation brought on by the United States’ disastrous withdrawal.”

The US-backed Afghan government collapsed in August of last year, with the Taliban capturing Kabul amid the pullout of US troops from the country after a 20-year war.

Washington, which had negotiated its withdrawal with the Taliban, quickly moved to freeze DAB’s US-based assets. The 9/11 victims’ families then sought the money through the courts. One particular case that had obtained a default judgement against the Taliban in 2012 became central in that effort.

The plaintiffs originally sued a host of entities and individuals across the Middle East and Afghanistan – many at odds with one another and adversarial to al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks in 2001. The defendants included former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – and the Taliban.


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