WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Friday eased sanctions that have contributed to the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy since the Taliban took over in August, issuing a measure clarifying that people can participate legally engaged in transactions with the Afghan government in most cases.
The measure, known as a general permit and released by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, says people can legally transfer money to public servants in government agencies – including ministries led by Taliban officials. The move includes transactions such as taxes, fees, import duties and the purchase or receipt of permits, permits or public utilities.
In a statement, Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, described the move as part of a broader US effort to not only support the flow of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but also facilitate operations. Commercial and financial activity there can allow the economy to function – without directly benefiting Islamic extremists.
“In the face of this severe crisis, it is essential that we address concerns that sanctions inhibit commercial and financial activity while we continue to deny financial resources,” he said. to the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other bad organizations,” he said.
The measure appears to be aimed at making it harder to blame the US government’s sanctions for the economic disaster that is unfolding in Afghanistan. The economic situation is creating a humanitarian crisis, including widespread famine, that is prompting a large wave of migrants to leave the country.
A senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity during a briefing to reporters, warned that many other factors were contributing to the economic fallout in Afghanistan. Those included the abrupt cuts to the enormous amount of Western foreign aid that paid for government salaries and infrastructure projects, as well as the exodus of technocrats and technocrats. others with special expertise after the Taliban took control.
In a statement describing the move, the Treasury Department also highlighted that theme.
The general license does not cover doing business with any organization in which the Taliban or the Haqqani network has a majority interest. It also does not allow payments related to luxury items or services.
Afghanistan’s central bank, known as Da Afghanistan Bank or DAB, is among the regulatory institutions that will face fewer obstacles under this measure. The central bank has previously enhanced the value of the Afghan currency by regularly auctioning US dollars.
That activity has stopped and the value of the Afghan currency has plummeted – making food too expensive for many impoverished Afghans to afford. At the same time, a currency shortage has led to a limit on the amount of money Afghans with bank accounts can withdraw from them.
Many of the bank’s officials fled in August, and the Taliban installed its own leaders to oversee it. But during the press conference, a senior administration official said the US government was exploring ideas to restart some of the normal operations of the central bank if it could be done independently. with controls to prevent money laundering and third-party surveillance. The official said much of whether that’s possible is down to the Taliban’s hands.
The idea of potentially trying to revive Afghanistan’s central bank is under some strain with a move this month by the Biden administration involving about $7 billion the central bank has deposited at the Bank. Federal Reserve in New York, the money whose fates have been in focus ever since. Taliban takeover.
When the Afghan government dissolved, the bank had no money left to withdraw. The Taliban have since claimed benefits for them, while relatives of those killed in the September 11 attacks are trying to obtain funds to pay the Taliban’s judgment debts to them from the lawsuits. which they have launched against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and others. .
On February 11, the Biden administration decided to split that money in half – in a way that could get the bank cut off. Mr. Biden has called for emergency powers to try to funnel $3.5 billion into a fund that will be used for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan. The administration left the remaining funds to the plaintiffs on September 11 to pursue further in court.
The judge will decide whether those funds can be lawfully used to pay off the Taliban’s judgment debts, a question that raises a number of thorny and unresolved legal issues.
The Treasury Department noted that nothing in the new general license “affects the assets or interests in the assets of Da Afghanistan Bank that are protected by freezing” following Biden’s recent action.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/us/politics/us-sanctions-afghanistan.html US authorizes sanctions to allow recurring dealings with Afghan government