Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Angry Afghans protesters call on US to return frozen assets

Thousands of Afghans poured into the streets of Kabul on Tuesday to condemn the recent U.S. decision to freeze Afghan assets, calling the move as unjust and open stealing.

With people carrying banners and placards with slogans reading “Biden the World Thief of 2022”, “U.S. destroyed Afghanistan” and “America should return Afghanistan’s assets”, the demonstration march started from the main money exchange market Sarai Shahzada and ended peacefully in front of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) office.

The demonstrators demanded the return without any condition of all the assets of the Afghan central bank that have been frozen by the United States following the Taliban’s takeover of the Central Asian country in mid-August 2021.

The protest came in response to an executive order signed recently by U.S. President Joe Biden for diverting 3.5 billion U.S. dollars from the frozen Afghan assets to compensating the families of 9/11 terror attacks’ victims.

At the end of the demonstration, the protestors issued a declaration terming the U.S. decision as a breach of international law and vowed to continue the protest until its revocation.

Hajj Mir Afghan Safi, head of Sarai Shahzada money changers union, said that Afghan people demonstrated in almost all big cities on Tuesday demanding the return of Afghanistan’s assets.

Nasir Ahmad, a money changer said, “The money belongs to the hungry people of Afghanistan and should be returned to Afghans. And President Biden’s decree with regard to the assets is unjust.”

The U.S. freezing of the Afghan central bank’s assets is widely seen as the primary factor leading to the current economic crisis and humanitarian disaster in the war-torn country of some 39 million people.

Deputy spokesman of the Taliban-led administration Inammullah Samangani and former Afghan president Hamid Karzai have both recently denounced Biden’s decision as unjust and demanded the return of the frozen assets to Afghanistan.

The acting Afghan foreign minister has also accused the United States of not following through on the commitments it made during talks in Qatar’s Doha.

“No, the United States has not taken action in some aspects [of the 2020 Doha agreement],” Amir Khan Muttaqi told Sputnik in an interview.

The Taliban had to free its men from prisons after the US-installed government fell, in what Muttaqi argued was a breach of a US promise to facilitate their gradual release.

The Taliban official added that Washington did not deliver on its promise to have Taliban members removed from international blacklists and help the interim government rebuild the war-torn country.

“It was promised that the US would cooperate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and encourage other countries to do the same. Instead of cooperating, they imposed sanctions,” Muttaqi said.

But he stressed that the caretaker Afghan government stayed true to its commitment to prevent terrorists from using Afghan soil to threaten the security of the US and its allies.

“So far, this soil has not been used against them. We promised them that we would maintain economic and diplomatic relations with the US. We stand by that promise,” he continued.

The acting FM has also said the interim Afghan government has agreed sanctions relief with Western envoys during January’s talks in Oslo.

Muttaqi, who lead the delegation of the Taliban to Oslo, met with EU, US and Norwegian officials from January 23-25.

“Of course, they had concerns and we had demands but the meetings were very successful. We were able to convince them on many issues. Especially in talks with the US we made progress in lifting sanctions,” he added.

Cash-strapped Afghanistan has seen prices skyrocket since the Taliban takeover in August. Its interim administration has requested that the West unfreeze Afghan reserves abroad to lift the nation out of poverty.

Muttaqi stated Western diplomats had agreed to issue the Taliban with licenses that would bring some assets back to Afghanistan and pledged further humanitarian assistance.

“As the situation improves, other countries have pledged humanitarian assistance, which has now expanded… The Norwegian meeting was a great opportunity, a great meeting full of achievements,” he noted.

The Taliban delegation headed by Muttaqi paid a three-day official visit to the Norwegian capital in late January on the invitation of the kingdom. The delegation met with special representatives and envoys from the US, the EU, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, and the UK. Muttaqi described the visit as successful, and the delegation thanked the Norwegian government for its hospitality and contribution to the strengthening of trust.

The Taliban took control of the Afghan capital of Kabul on August 15, 2021, and established an interim government headed by Mohammad Hassan Akhund in September. Since then, international organizations have repeatedly warned of the worsening humanitarian situation in the country. While the government has not been internationally recognized, many countries have called on the movement to demonstrate respect for human rights and inclusivity.

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