Afghanistan: A constant prey of US unjust & unfair sanctions

By Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan | Gwadar Pro Mar 17, 2023

Editor's Note: The author is Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, Executive Director of the Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and Regional Expert on China, BRI & CPEC. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

Unfortunately, Afghanistan has been an easy "prey" for international power brokers. The country has been dragged into gross violations of basic human rights, and people's lives, not only those of Afghans but also others, have been sacrificed in the name of 'global security and peace'.

The suffering of Afghanistan has far from stopped at brutal and indiscriminate killings. The social and economic sanctions imposed by the United States, as well as the frequent freezing of financial assets at the US Federal Reserve Bank, have further damaged the daily lives of Afghans.

Last year, US President Joe Biden issued an executive order to release the $7 billion in Afghan Central Bank funds held in the Federal Reserve, which had been frozen since August when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan as US and NATO forces withdrew. International media reports suggest that Biden's plan includes directing $3.5 billion into a trust fund for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and setting aside the other $3.5 billion for families of victims of the 9/11 attacks in the US.

Lately, US District Court has issued an order instructing that these unrealized funds cannot be used towards the claims of 9/11 affected families because they are primarily owned by the people of Afghanistan. But currently there are no updated developments from the US side.

According to official statistics, the Central Bank of Afghanistan had about $9 billion in foreign exchange reserves, of which about $7 billion was deposited at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York in a mixture of gold, cash, US Treasury bonds, and other paper money. It also deposited a total of about $2 billion in assets in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the UAE, and other countries, which were subsequently illegally confiscated by the US and the West.

The inappropriate delay in unfreezing Afghanistan's financial assets has severely damaged the country's national institutions, society, and governance system. Poverty is ubiquitous, and the problem of unemployment is urgent. Food and energy insecurity are undermining the basic socio-economic structure of the scattered settlements and society. There is no doubt that the prompt return of assets belonging to the Afghan people by the United States is urgent.

As a member of globalization and the international community, each country contributes appropriate funds to various United Nations organizations and invests in international markets and banks. These markets and banks should not be part of a "zero-sum game" pursued by the international powers led by the United States and the West, as a chip in geopolitical games. These contributed and parked financial assets are the property of indigenous people and central banks of various countries, which have nothing to do with power politics. The people only hope for progress and prosperity in their own countries.

The Deputy Minister of Economy, Abdul Latif Nazari, stated that the freezing of Afghan assets by the United States violates international law. According to many regional economists, timely and comprehensive unfreezing of funds would help restore economic stability and sustainable economic development in the country. Unfreezing assets would further reduce the rates of poverty, unemployment, and inflation.

Over half of the population in Afghanistan is in extreme poverty, the United Nations and other international humanitarian organizations have been trying to persuade the US and the World Bank to release these funds belonging to the Afghan Central Bank of DA.

The US decision was largely rejected by the international community as well as international organizations. Foreign ministries of countries such as Russia, Iran, and Pakistan said the Afghan people have the right to use their assets deposited around the world as needed, and the frozen Afghan assets in the US should be returned to them immediately. Right from the beginning, China and Pakistan have been staunch supporters and advocates of the timely and full unfreezing of Afghan assets.

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