WASHINGTON: A US administration official Monday said that the Taliban will be denied access to any Afghan reserves held in US accounts.
“Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government has in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban,” the US official told AFP, adding that the US forces were evacuating Afghanistan’s capital after the Taliban’s swift takeover.
According to the IMF, the central bank’s gross reserves totaled $9.4 billion at the end of April. But most of those funds are held outside of Afghanistan, according to a person familiar with the matter. It was not immediately clear what share of the assets are held in the United States.
The country´s central bank governor Ajmal Ahmady went to Twitter to detail his harrowing escape from the country on a military plane on Sunday, after he and his team tried to stabilise the currency amid the Taliban advance towards the capital.
Ahmady, who did not say where he was, said the central bank was informed on Friday that “given the deteriorating environment, we wouldn’t get any more dollar shipments,” and he met Saturday with banks and money exchangers to reassure them.
“Once (the) president´s departure was announced, I knew within minutes chaos would follow. I cannot forgive him for creating that without a transition plan,” he tweeted Monday. “It did not have to end this way. I am disgusted by the lack of any planning by Afghan leadership. Saw at airport them leave without informing others.”
In addition to freezing assets, Washington could also block aid to Afghanistan from multilateral lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, as it has with other regimes it does not recognise, like Venezuela.
“Afghanistan is tremendously dependent on foreign aid… so access to international economic funds will be crucial,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a foreign policy expert at The Brookings Institution. But cutting off funds in an attempt to undermine a Taliban government “has massive humanitarian consequences, and human and economic development consequences,” she told AFP.
The IMF in June released the latest installment of a $370 million loan to Afghanistan approved in November to help support the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Bank meanwhile has more than two dozen development projects ongoing in the country and has provided $5.3 billion since 2002, mostly in grants.
The United States provided $4.7 billion in aid in the 2019 fiscal year alone, according to government data. “The Taliban government members have no experience as to how to deal with international donors,” Felbab-Brown said. “They don´t have any experience with administering large international aid packages.”