Biden ordinance on frozen funds an atrocity, says former Afghan President Karzai – The Diplomat
The former Afghan president on Sunday appealed for an order from the White House to keep $3.5 billion in Afghan assets held in the United States for the families of victims of 9/11, an atrocity against the Afghan people.
Former President Hamid Karzai, during a crowded press conference, asked for the help of Americans, especially the families of the thousands killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to pressure President Joe Biden to rescind last week’s order. He called it “unfair and unfair”, saying Afghans were also victims of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was brought to Afghanistan by Afghan warlords after he was expelled from Sudan in 1996. These same warlords later allied with the US-led coalition to oust the Taliban in 2001. However, c It was Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar who refused to hand bin Laden over to the United States after the devastating 9/11 attacks that left thousands dead.
“The Afghan people share the pain of the American people, share the pain of the families and loved ones of those who died, who lost their lives in the tragedy of 9/11,” Karzai said. “We sympathize with them (but) the Afghans are as many victims as the families who lost their lives. … Withholding money or seizing money from the Afghan people in their name is unfair and unjust and an atrocity against the Afghan people.
Biden’s order signed last Friday released $7 billion in Afghan assets currently held in the United States, half of which goes to humanitarian assistance to Afghans. The other half will be set aside as potential compensation for 9/11 victims, pending the outcome of legal efforts.
9/11 victims and their families have a lawsuit against the Taliban and the $7 billion US banking system. The $3.5 billion has been set aside for a US court to decide if it can be used to settle the claims of families of 9/11 victims. US courts would also have to approve before the aid money is released.
We are “calling on the US courts to do the opposite, to return the Afghan money to the Afghan people,” Karzai said. “This money does not belong to any government, this money belongs to the Afghan people.”
Meanwhile, Biden’s order calls for the $3.5 billion allocated for humanitarian aid to be placed in trust and used to help Afghans, bypassing their Taliban leadership.
But Karzai demanded that the $7 billion be returned to the Afghan central bank to continue its monetary policy. He opposed the granting of Afghan reserves to international aid organizations to provide humanitarian aid.
“You give us our own money so that it can be spent on foreigners who come here, to pay their salaries, to give it to (non-governmental organizations),” he said.
The Afghan economy is on the verge of collapse after international money stopped flowing into the country with the arrival of the Taliban in mid-August. Last month the United Nations appealed for $5 billion for Afghanistan. The UN warns that one million children are at risk of starvation and that 90% of Afghans live below the poverty line of just $1.90 a day.
Karzai was Afghanistan’s first democratically elected president after the US-led coalition toppled the Taliban in 2001. He served until 2014 and succeeded Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country on August 15, leaving the doors open to the Taliban takeover of Kabul. Karzai was highly regarded as encompassing all of Afghanistan’s many ethnic groups, but his administration, like subsequent Afghan administrations, was dogged by accusations of widespread corruption.
Karzai spoke at a packed press conference inside his sprawling compound in the capital of Kabul. Dozens of Pashtun- and Persian-speaking Afghan journalists vied for space in a second-floor conference room with more than a dozen television cameras.
Karzai used the press conference to pressure the country’s Taliban leaders and their opponents to find a way to come together. He pushed for the traditional Afghan grand council, or loya jirga, as a way to find consensus and establish a more representative administration.
“We as Afghans and the current sitting Islamic government must do our best not to give America or any other country any excuse to be against us,” he said.
Anger has been mounting in Afghanistan since Friday’s announcement at the White House. Protesters marched again in Kabul on Sunday demanding that the money be returned to Afghanistan. However, the Taliban, who also condemned Biden’s order, dispersed protesters as they tried to gather near the city’s Eid Gah mosque.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission, in a tweet on Sunday evening, said four activists who went missing more than two weeks ago had returned home.
At the end of January, Tamana Zaryabi Paryani and her three sisters disappeared, allegedly seized by a group of men after taking part in a demonstration against the forced wearing of the Islamic hijab. The Taliban denied taking them.
“The UN welcomes encouraging reports that the four ‘disappeared’ Afghan women activists, some of whom have been missing for weeks, are being allowed to return home. Their well-being and safety are of paramount concern,” the UN agency said.
International media have however reported that several British nationals and an American are still being held by the Taliban, including freelance cameraman Peter Jouvenal, a dual British and German citizen who has covered Afghanistan for more than 40 years. He has been missing since December and the Taliban did not respond to questions from The Associated Press.
His wife, an Afghan, launched a plea for his release.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that an American was being held by the Taliban along with “a number of British nationals”. He gave no further information, saying only that Washington was “actively working to secure his release.”