US plans to release half of $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds for aid, rest to stay in US

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WASHINGTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) – The U.S. government plans to release half of Afghanistan’s central bank’s $7 billion frozen assets on its soil to help the Afghan people, while the rest will remain in the United States pending prosecution of victims of terrorism, sources said.

Last month, a US judge gave President Joe Biden’s administration until Friday to come up with a plan for what to do with the frozen funds, amid urgent calls from US lawmakers and the United Nations to that they are used to deal with the serious economic crisis in Afghanistan. .

The US government will work to ensure access to $3.5 billion of these assets for “the benefit of the Afghan people and for the future of Afghanistan”, one of the sources said, without providing details on how these funds would be distributed.

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The multi-step plan calls for the other half of the funds to remain in the United States, subject to ongoing lawsuits by American victims of terrorism, including relatives of those who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks. , the sources said. .

Washington froze Afghan funds held in the United States after the Taliban’s military takeover in August, but has faced growing pressure to find a way to release the funds without acknowledging the Taliban, who say the money is theirs. belongs.

However, some 9/11 victims and their families have filed lawsuits to cover unsatisfied court judgments related to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

As part of the plan, Biden will sign an executive order on Friday that will require U.S. financial institutions to transfer all Afghan central bank assets they hold to a new consolidated account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, officials said. sources.

Afghanistan still has $2 billion in reserves, held in countries like Britain, Germany, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. Most of these funds are also frozen.

The United States, the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, will continue to work with the United Nations and humanitarian aid groups to ensure continued assistance to the Afghan people, the sources said.

It is also working closely with the United Nations on mechanisms to ensure that UN agencies and aid groups have the necessary cash to support essential humanitarian assistance programs, the sources said.

Reuters reported on Thursday that the UN aims to launch a scheme this month to exchange millions of dollars in aid for Afghan currency that would help address the problem. Read more

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a mechanism to release about $9.5 billion in frozen Afghan reserves around the world, including the United States.

US sanctions prohibit doing financial business with the Taliban. Humanitarian aid to the Afghan people is allowed.

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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