Taliban negotiate with the United States to release funds for Afghanistan

A Taliban delegation arrived in Qatar on Wednesday to discuss with the United States a mechanism to unlock international funds and ensure that they are used for humanitarian purposes after the deadly earthquake in Afghanistan.

The Taliban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi, arrived in Doha with officials from the Ministry of Finance and the central bank to negotiate with the United States special representative for Afghanistan, Tom West, the spokesman for Taliban diplomacy, Hafiz, said on Twitter. Ziah Ahmed.

After the rise to power of the Taliban in August 2021, Washington seized $7 billion of Afghan central bank reserves deposited in the United States in February.

US President Joe Biden wanted half of this sum to be reserved for compensation for the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the other half for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but delivering the money in a way that fell into the hands of the Taliban.

The country, already plunged into a serious economic crisis, was shaken last week by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake in the east of the country that left more than a thousand people dead and thousands homeless.

“We are working hard to resolve difficult questions about the use of these funds to ensure they benefit the Afghan people and not the Taliban,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said last week.

A member of Afghanistan’s central bank’s board of directors confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that talks were under way, but warned they could take time.

“The details of the reserve transfer mechanism to the central bank have not been finalized,” said Shah Mehrabi, who is also an economics professor at Montgomery College in the United States.

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The US State Department has not immediately confirmed these negotiations.

Mehrabi indicated that 3.5 billion dollars should be delivered to the central bank and proposed, for his part, “a limited release and control of reserves, such as 150 million per month to pay for imports.”

This measure would help strengthen the Afghan currency, stabilize prices and allow its population to acquire basic products such as bread, oil, sugar or fuel, the economist points out.

The use of these funds “can be controlled and audited independently by external cabinets,” he added.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 24 million Afghans, more than half of its population, need urgent humanitarian aid.

bur-hs-dho-jm / rle / dbh / rsr

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