US rules out giving $3.5 billion to Afghanistan

TThe United States has no plans to release $3.5 billion in frozen funds to Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled central bank, but will look for ways to directly benefit the people of the country, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“We don’t see the recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a short-term option,” Price told a briefing. He said the US did not trust the bank to use the money wisely or keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

Price’s comments signaled that the Biden administration had abandoned any possibility of disbursing the money directly to the government after it was revealed that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had lived for a time in the heart of Kabul before he was killed in a drone strike in the end of July.

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The assets were frozen after US forces withdrew from Afghanistan a year ago and the Taliban took over. US officials met with Taliban leaders in Uzbekistan as part of efforts to reach an agreement on the money.

Zawahiri’s presence on Afghan soil only underscored concerns that the Taliban would not withhold money to benefit terrorist groups, Price said.

The funds make up half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan assets held at U.S. financial institutions. In February, President Joe Biden issued an executive order allocating half of the money to be distributed to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, reserving the rest for “the benefit of the Afghan people.”

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