The fate of the remaining $3.5 billion that US President Joe Biden has set aside for 9/11 victims remains uncertain.
The board of a Switzerland-based trust fund, which is in charge of disbursing billions of dollars of assets belonging to Afghanistan, has met for the first time in Geneva.
In a meeting held on Monday, the trustees considered various proposals on how to transfer $3.5 billion, which were frozen when the Taliban drove out the US-backed government from Kabul last year.
The United Nations has warned that millions of Afghans can suffer if the international community doesn’t step in immediately to ease the economic crisis in the war-torn country.
The money is part of around $7 billion in foreign currency assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank that is held at the US Federal Reserve.
“This fund is for the Afghans. It will protect, preserve and make targeted disbursement to promote price stability so that the people can afford to buy basic necessities of life,” says Shah Mehrabi, an Afghan-American economist who is among the trustees overseeing the fund.
“For any purpose other than bringing price stability and reducing volatility in the exchange rate, the board will consult the Taliban. Likewise, the Taliban can propose to us if they would like to use the funds elsewhere.”
How and when the money will be disbursed is yet to be determined.
Mehrabi, a member of the Supreme Council of Central Bank of Afghanistan, is one of the four trustees, including Swiss foreign ministry official Alexandra Baumann, US Ambassador to Switzerland Scott Miller and former Afghan central bank chief Anwar Ahady.
The four-member Board of the Afghan Fund met in Geneva today. Shah Mehrabi, one of the members, explains the decisions made in their first-ever meeting. pic.twitter.com/JB1Cb0ct4s— Amu TV (@AmuTelevision) November 22, 2022
In September, the US transferred $3.5 billion to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland, instead of releasing it to Afghanistan's central bank (DAB).
The move was designed to bypass the Taliban, which condemned the transfer, calling it a violation of international laws.
The negotiations to release the funds have centred around the $3.5 billion, which US President Joe Biden has set aside for Afghanistan.
The remaining $3.5 billion of Afghanistan’s money with the Federal Reserve is being contested in lawsuits against the Taliban stemming from September 11 attacks, which led to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
“There remains much to do in protecting and repatriating the rest of the $3.5 billion of DAB’s reserves especially as these assets are the subject of multifaceted US litigation,” Mehrabi told TRT World.
The US administration has come under fire for withholding cash belonging to the people of Afghanistan at a time when Afghans are suffering from hunger, poverty and high inflation.
Many people have criticised the US for politicising the funds against the Taliban despite the fact that it was the terror group, Al Qaeda, that was actually behind the 9/11 attacks.
According to the UN, 24 million Afghans, or half the country's population, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.