President Joe Biden has moved to freeze about $7bn in assets held in US financial institutions by the Afghan central bank in the wake of the Taliban takeover, as he vowed to direct $3.5bn to humanitarian aid and preserve the rest for families of victims of the September 11 terror attacks.
In an executive order signed on Friday, Biden directed “all property and interests in property” of the Afghan central bank in the US to be “blocked” and transferred to an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, effectively cutting off the Taliban’s access to the US financial system.
The move caps months of uncertainty over the Afghan central bank’s funds in the US. The Biden administration has faced competing pressures to keep humanitarian assistance flowing to the Afghan people, while ensuring that court-ordered payouts to families of the victims of the 2001 attacks are honoured.
“This executive order is designed to provide a path for the funds to reach the people of Afghanistan, while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and malicious actors,” the White House said.
“The United States has sanctions in place against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, including for activities that threaten the safety of Americans such as holding our citizens hostage.”