US President Joe Biden’s decision to allocate $3.5 billion of Afghan assets--roughly half--to the victims of 9/11, faced widespread reactions inside and outside of Afghanistan.
Biden on Friday signed an executive order to unfreeze $7 billion of the Afghan central bank’s assets frozen in US banks. According to the order, $3.5 billion of the assets will be released for Afghan relief and basic needs. The other $3.5 billion will be earmarked for compensation for victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Human rights watchdogs said the Afghan assets belong to the people of Afghanistan and that it should not be distributed to others as the country is already struggling with a fractured economic system.
“Directing $3.5 billion to humanitarian assistance for Afghans may sound generous, but it should be remembered that the entire $7 billion already legally belonged to the Afghan people, said John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch. “And yet, even if the US gave it to a humanitarian trust fund, current restrictions on Afghanistan’s banking sector make it virtually impossible to send or spend the money inside the country.”
The decision was also strongly criticized by the current Afghan government and politicians. They called the order to allocate $3.5 billion of Afghan assets to the 9/11 victims “stealing” from one of the poorest countries in the world.
“The Islamic Emirate says compensation is an unrelated use for the funds and is unfair,” said Inamullah Samangani, deputy spokesman for the Islamic Emirate.
The Islamic Emirate called Biden’s decision unjust.
“The stealing of Afghan frozen assets by the US--and their seizure--shows the lowest level of humanity and ethics of a country and nation,” said Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Islamic Emirate’s political office in Doha.
Biden’s decision unified Afghans from across the country who in a single voice criticized what they called an unjust move by Washington.
“The money which Mr. Biden released--this money is in reserve for Afghanistan. I think if this money is spent to help the humanitarian crisis, the world will not provide financial support to Afghanistan,” said Sayed Ishaq Gailani, leader of the National Solidarity Party of Afghanistan.
With the fall of the former government and the end of a 20-year military mission-- that also left thousands of Afghans dead and wounded-- the US Department of Treasury froze the Afghan Central Bank's money in reserve.
Many politicians around the world said there were no Afghans among the 9/11 attackers and that it is extremely unfair to earmark the Afghan assets to the victims of this tragedy.
“There wasn't a single Afghan among the hijackers. Meanwhile, we are giving BILLIONS of dollars to the govts of Saudi Arabia & Egypt who have direct ties to the 9/11 terrorists,” US congresswoman, Ilhan Omar said. “Even if this weren't the case, punishing millions of starving ppl for these crimes is unconscionable.”
“So the world's richest country has decided to rob the world's poorest country in the name of justice. A fitting end to the War on Terror,” said Barnett R. Rubin, a well-known American researcher.
According to a New York Times report, not all 9/11 victims’ relatives seek compensation from the Afghan assets.
“I can’t think of a worse betrayal of the people of Afghanistan than to freeze their assets and give it to 9/11 families,” said Barry Amundson, whose brother was killed in the Pentagon attack on 9/11, as quoted by the New York Times. “While 9/11 families are seeking justice for their loss through these suits, I fear that the end result of seizing this money will be to cause further harm to innocent Afghans who have already suffered greatly.”
Mohsin Dawar, a member of the Pakistan Parliament and Pashtun Tahfuz Movement (PTM) called the decision shocking.
“This will be a shocking decision that would be devoid of any respect to human rights or international norms,” he said. “This money belongs to Afghans and not to the citizens of one of the richest countries in the world.”