12 February 2022

Afghans protest over US order to give billions of dollars to 9/11 victims

12 February 2022

Demonstrators in Afghanistan’s capital have condemned US president Joe Biden’s order to free up 3.5 billion dollars (£2.58 billion) in Afghan assets held in the US for families of America’s 9/11 victims – saying the money belongs to Afghans.

Protesters who gathered outside Kabul’s grand Eid Gah mosque asked America for financial compensation for the tens of thousands of Afghans killed during the last 20 years of war in their country.

Mr Biden’s order, signed on Friday, allocates another 3.5 billion dollars in Afghan assets for humanitarian aid to a trust fund to be managed by the UN to provide aid to Afghans.

Protesters condemned US president Joe Biden’s decision (AP) (AP)

The country’s economy is teetering on the brink of collapse after international money stopped coming into Afghanistan with the arrival of the Taliban last August.

Torek Farhadi, a financial adviser to Afghanistan’s former US-backed government, questioned the UN managing Afghan Central Bank reserves.

He said those funds are not meant for humanitarian aid but “to back up the country’s currency, help in monetary policy and manage the country’s balance of payment”.

He also questioned the legality of Mr Biden’s order.

“These reserves belong to the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban … Mr Biden’s decision is one-sided and does not match with international law,” said Mr Farhadi.

“No other country on Earth makes such confiscation decisions about another country’s reserves.”

Afghanistan has about nine billion dollars (£6.6 billion) in assets overseas, including the seven billion dollars (£5.1 billion) in the United States.

The rest is mostly in Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.

The demonstration’s organiser, activist Abdul Rahman, asked: “What about our Afghan people who gave many sacrifices and thousands of losses of lives?”

US president Joe Biden (AP) (AP)

Mr Rahman said he planned to organise more demonstrations across the capital to protest against Mr Biden’s order.

“This money belongs to the people of Afghanistan, not to the United States. This is the right of Afghans,” he said.

Placards accused the United States of being cruel and of stealing the money of Afghans.

On Friday, Taliban political spokesman Mohammad Naeem accused the Biden administration of showing “the lowest level of humanity … of a country and a nation”.

Mr Biden’s order generated a social media storm, with tweets and other posts repeatedly pointing out that the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, not Afghans.

Obaidullah Baheer, a lecturer at the American University in Afghanistan and a social activist, tweeted: “Let’s remind the world that #AfghansDidntCommit911 and that #BidenStealingAfgMoney!”

The plan is to split seven billion dollars in Afghan assets frozen in the US to fund humanitarian relief in Afghanistan and to create a trust fund to compensate September 11 victims (AP) (AP)

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was brought to Afghanistan by Afghan warlords after being expelled from Sudan in 1996. Those same warlords would later ally with the US-led coalition to oust the Taliban in 2001.

However, it was Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar who refused to hand over bin Laden to the US after the devastating 9/11 attacks that killed thousands in September 2001.

Some analysts took to Twitter to question Mr Biden’s order. Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programme at the US-based Wilson Centre, criticised the scheme to divert funds from Afghanistan.

“It’s great that $3.5B in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan has been freed up. But to take another $3.5B that belongs to the Afghan people, and divert it elsewhere–that is misguided and quite frankly heartless,” he tweeted.

Mr Kugelman also said the opposition to Mr Biden’s order crossed Afghanistan’s wide political divide.

“I can’t remember the last time so many people of such vastly different worldviews were so united over a US policy decision on Afghanistan,” he tweeted.

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