Taliban begs US to unfreeze Afghan govt. assets to help respond to earthquake that killed 1,000 people

·2 min read
The settlement of Paktika, Afghanistan, seen on June 22, 2022, after an earthquake.
The settlement of Paktika, Afghanistan, seen on June 22, 2022, after an earthquake.Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • The Taliban asked the US to unfreeze assets to help them respond to a major earthquake.

  • At least 1,000 people died when a 6.1-magnitude quake hit the southern city of Khost on Tuesday.

  • The US froze $9.5 billion when the Taliban took over, and is still holding around $2 billion.

The Taliban renewed its pleas for the US to release assets frozen in American banks, this time citing the need to respond to a devastating earthquake.

At least 1,000 people died and 1,500 were injured late Tuesday when a 6.1 magnitude tremor hit the southern city of Khost.

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August, President Joe Biden's administration froze $9.5 billion of Afghanistan Central Bank reserves held in US banks.

Biden in February unfroze around $7 billion of those funds, saying they would be used for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan and given to the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terror attack.

That move left around $2.5 billion that the Taliban could not access.

In the wake of the earthquake, Taliban's supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada, asked "the international community, welfare, and humanitarian organizations to come forward and provide assistance to the earthquake affected people of Afghanistan."

The same day, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Iran's Sahar TV that the US must unfreeze the funds to boost the disaster response.

Since the assets were frozen, Taliban officials have tried to change Biden's mind by both trying to flatter the US and also by accusing it of stealing.

The UN's deputy special representative and resident humanitarian co-ordinator in Kabul, Ramiz Alakbarov, said Wednesday that Afghanistan immediately needed $15 million to respond to the crisis.

The US embassy in Kabul tweeted Wednesday that the US was "already responding to the Afghan earthquake working with partners to deploy medical teams to provide immediate care to people affected."

In a tweet Wednesday the aid agency Afghans for a Better Tomorrow called on Biden to release the frozen funds, saying "aid organizations have long cited the frozen assets as well as the sanctions regime as insurmountable barriers to ensuring Afghans receiving basic needs and emergency aid."

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