As the Biden administration scrambles to evacuate American personnel from Afghanistan, it is overlooking the Taliban's plans to seize some $10 billion in assets held by Afghanistan's central bank, according to congressional foreign policy leaders.
Somewhere between $18 and $20 million in cash sits in the Afghan central bank's vaults and is likely to fall into the Taliban's hands unless the United States attempts to intercept the funds and fly them out of the country—a scenario that sources say is unlikely as the Biden administration struggles to pull Americans out of Taliban-controlled Kabul.
The Treasury Department would not answer questions about any plan it has to secure cash still located inside the country. A Biden administration official, speaking only on background about the matter, told the Washington Free Beacon that all Afghan assets held as investments in the United States—which amount to around $7 billion—have been frozen and "will not be made available to the Taliban." The Afghan central bank has around $10 billion in total assets, most of which are stored outside the country and out of the Taliban's reach in the short term. Taliban leaders are pressing bank officials to give them access to these funds, according to Afghan government officials.
Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress say the Biden administration is in no place to secure Afghanistan's fortune given its disorganized evacuation of Americans from the country, which is still taking place. They say the administration had no contingency plans in place and failed to anticipate the Taliban's quick return to power.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said it is Congress's responsibility to make sure the Taliban does not become wealthy as a result of its government takeover.
"While I am glad the administration has indicated it will not allow the Taliban to gain access to Afghan reserves held in the United States, it's up to Congress to make sure the Taliban does not walk away with a windfall," Gallagher told the Free Beacon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) "must immediately reconvene Congress for an emergency session so we can do so."
The United States froze cash shipments to Afghanistan during the weekend, when the Taliban marched into Kabul and retook control of the country. Some in the Biden administration, however, have floated plans to unfreeze Afghanistan's cash reserves or offer the Taliban foreign aid if it agrees to spare the embattled U.S. embassy compound in Kabul, according to one source with knowledge of the ongoing deliberations. The administration could also be forced to repatriate a portion of these funds as part of future negotiations with the Taliban that are certain to take place in the coming weeks and months.
Still, the Taliban is doing all it can to get its hand on any money still stashed inside the country, and its leaders are "asking [central bank] officials about the location of assets," according to Ajmal Ahmady, the bank's most recent governor, who fled the country as the Taliban marched into Kabul.
Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, slammed the Biden administration's lack of planning.
"The Biden administration has no planned evacuation route for Americans. No plan to secure the perimeter of the Kabul airport. No plan to keep billions of high-tech equipment away from the Taliban. No plan to stop the Taliban from seizing billions of American dollars," Banks told the Free Beacon. "He has endangered thousands of Americans and empowered our enemies. Biden's incompetence is an embarrassment to the United States."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration "systematically misled Congress and the American people" about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
"They had no plan to prevent the Taliban from seizing everything from territory to billions of dollars' worth of assets from the Afghan government, which the Taliban will use for illicit finance, terrorism, drug running, and an endless list of other activities, all of which put Americans at risk," Cruz told the Free Beacon through a spokesman. "As they finally begin developing a plan to deal with this national security catastrophe, the Biden-Harris administration must ensure that they prevent the Taliban from accessing these assets."
Published under: Afghanistan