Taliban calls on US Congress to release frozen Afghan assets

The $9.5bn in frozen assets and loans threatens to worsen humanitarian crisis in country, group says.

Afghanistan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has released an open letter calling on US Congress to release frozen Afghan assets. [File: Farooq Naeem/AFP]

The Taliban has called on members of the United States Congress to act to release Afghan assets frozen after their August takeover of the country.

In an open letter on Wednesday, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said the biggest challenge facing Afghanistan was financial insecurity, “and the roots of this concern lead back to the freezing of assets of our people by the American government”.

“I request … so that doors for future relations are opened, assets of Afghanistan’s Central Bank are unfrozen and sanctions on our banks are lifted,” he wrote, while warning the economic turmoil at home could lead to trouble abroad, prompting mass migration that “will consequently create further humanitarian and economic issues”.

Washington has seized nearly $9.5bn in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank since the Taliban took power. In October, Deputy United States Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told a US Senate committee he saw no situation where the Taliban would be allowed to access the Afghan central bank reserves

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy has effectively collapsed – with civil servants unpaid for months and the treasury unable to pay for imports.

While concerned nations have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, many are reluctant to commit funds unless the Taliban agrees to a more inclusive government and to guarantee the rights of women and minorities.

“I present to you our compliments and would like to share a few thoughts on our bilateral relations,” Muttaqi wrote, noting that 2021 was the centenary of Washington recognising Afghanistan’s independence.

“Akin to other world countries, our bilateral relations have also experienced ups and downs,” he added, downplaying the 20-year-long-war between US-led foreign forces and the group in the country.

To date, Washington has not recognised the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan, although last week the administration of President Joe Biden announced that Qatar would serve as its diplomatic representative in the country.

‘Understand concerns’

In the letter, Muttaqi argued that Afghanistan was enjoying a stable government for the first time in more than 40 years – a period that started with an invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979 and ended with the withdrawal of the last US troops on August 31.

The Taliban had previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, enacting brutal policies that violated human rights, particularly for women and girls. Their return to power has sparked fears about human rights.

Since taking power, leaders of the group have sought to convince the international community that they intend to do things differently this time around, although their decision not to appoint any female ministers so far and to mostly bar girls from returning to secondary school, has done little to alleviate the concerns.

“Practical steps have been taken towards good governance, security and transparency,” Muttaqi wrote.

“No threat is posed to the region or world from Afghanistan and a pathway has been paved for positive cooperation.”

Muttaqi said Afghans “understand the concerns of the international community”, but that it was necessary for all sides to take positive steps to build trust.

He warned, the US risked further damaging its reputation in the country “and this will serve as the worst memory ingrained in Afghans at the hands of America”.

“We hope that the members of the American Congress will think thoroughly in this regard,” he added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies