Quoting two people familiar with the matter, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Biden administration on Sunday froze Afghan government reserves held in US bank accounts, blocking the Taliban from accessing billions of dollars held in US institutions.
The Afghanistan Central Bank held $9.4 billion in reserve assets as of April, according to the International Monetary Fund, which amounts to roughly one-third of the country’s annual economic output.
The vast majority of those reserves are not currently held in Afghanistan, one of the people familiar with the matter said as quoted by the Post. Among those, billions of dollars are kept in the United States, although the precise amount is unclear.
The decision was made by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and officials in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the people said.
The State Department was also involved in discussions over the weekend, with officials in the White House monitoring the developments. An administration official said in a statement, “Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban.” The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss government policy not yet made public.
Ajmal Ahmady, acting head of Da Afghanistan Bank, early Monday tweeted that he learned on Friday that shipments of dollars would stop as the US tried to block any Taliban effort to gain access to the funds. DAB has $9.5 billion in assets, a sizeable portion of which is in accounts with the New York Federal Reserve and US-based financial institutions.
US sanctions on the Taliban mean that they cannot access any funds. The vast majority of DAB’s assets are not currently held in Afghanistan, according to two people familiar with the matter.
According to the Post, the US Treasury Department declined to comment.