WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of State has issued a statement saying that President Joe Biden signed an order Friday releasing $7 billion in Afghan assets that had been frozen in the United States.
The money will be divided between humanitarian aid for poverty-stricken Afghanistan and a fund for victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks who are still seeking compensation for the attacks that killed thousands and stunned the world.
There would be no rapid release of funds. However, under Biden’s directive, banks are required to transfer $3.5 billion of the frozen funds to a trust fund, which would then be distributed through humanitarian organizations for Afghan aid and basic needs.
The remaining $3.5 billion would remain in the United States to finance settlements from cases brought by victims of terrorism in the United States that are still in the process of being resolved in the courts.
As a result of the Taliban seizing control of the country in August, and the withdrawal of the United States forces from the country, international aid to Afghanistan was discontinued, and billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s assets overseas, primarily in the United States, were frozen.
As stated in a release, the order “is intended to create a pathway for contributions to reach the people of Afghanistan while also preventing the monies from falling into the hands of terrorists and other destructive actors.”
According to Biden’s plan, the United States is sitting on billions of dollars in assets owned by a country whose government it does not recognize,
with competing demands for the money to meet the desperate needs of the Afghan people and families still suffering as a result of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Brett Eagleson, whose father, Bruce, was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, stated that while victims’ families support the distribution of a large portion of the funds to the Afghan people, the remaining funds should be distributed fairly among the families, according to Brett’s father Bruce.
The government’s failure to provide “equitable treatment for and among the 9/11 families” in relation to the frozen assets is “outrageous” and “will be perceived as a betrayal,” according to Eagleson.
The Justice Department had hinted months ago that the administration was considering intervening in a federal lawsuit filed by 9/11 victims and their relatives in New York City against the federal government.
The submission deadline had been postponed to Friday due to unforeseen circumstances.
In 2012, the families involved in that case were awarded a judgment by a federal court in the United States against the Taliban and other parties.
There are other ongoing cases against the government on behalf of other victims’ relatives,
and a New York-based lawyer representing approximately 500 families requested that everyone be treated equally when it comes to the fund on Friday.
“It will take a significant amount of money to pay monetary recompense, but we will never be able to make these folks whole.” “Never,” attorney Jerry S. Goldman stated emphatically.
Since the Taliban took control of the country, Afghanistan’s long-struggling economy has been in freefall.
Over 80 percent of the previous government’s budget came from contributions from the foreign community.
That money, which is no longer available, was used to fund hospitals, schools, factories, and government ministries.
The COVID-19 epidemic, as well as healthcare shortages, drought, and starvation, have all contributed to the growing desperation for such basic commodities.
Aid organizations have issued a dire warning about a potential humanitarian disaster.
The state has not paid its employees for several months, including doctors, teachers, and administrative government servants, among others. Banks have limited the amount of money that account users can remove from their accounts.
According to senior administration officials who briefed reporters, U.S. courts where 9/11 victims have filed claims against the Taliban will have to take additional action in order for victims and families to be compensated from the $3.5 billion, including determining whether or not they have a valid claim.
The Biden administration is still working out the specifics of how to establish the trust fund, which the White House estimates will take several months at the current pace.
Because victims have ongoing legal claims against the $7 billion in funds held in the United States banking system,
the courts would have to give their approval before half of the money for humanitarian relief could be delivered to Afghanistan, according to the official.
Following the September 11th attacks on the United States, the United States initiated a military campaign in Afghanistan more than two decades ago,
after the then-Taliban commander, Mullah Omar refused to hand over al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
He migrated to Afghanistan after being expelled from Sudan in 1996. Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia, but his citizenship was revoked as a result of his actions.
Taliban political spokesman Mohammad Naeem has blasted the Biden administration for not releasing all of the cash allocated to Afghanistan during his recent visit to Washington.