Using Afghanistan’s Frozen Funds to Pay 9/11 Families Could Backfire

Using Afghanistan’s Frozen Funds to Pay 9/11 Families Could Backfire
Protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a protest condemning President Joe Biden's decision on frozen Afghan assets in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2022 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

On Feb. 11, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order that proposed a plan for the $7 billion of frozen Afghan reserves that have been locked up in U.S. financial institutions since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. Half was to be placed in a trust that would benefit the Afghan people, with the rest remaining frozen until a U.S. court rules as to whether it could be used to settle the Taliban’s legal debts with the families of 9/11 victims. The president did not determine whether that latter portion could in fact be used for 9/11 reparations—but he also did not exercise his executive power to protect it from being used for this purpose.

The decision caused an outcry at the time. Washington Post columnist Daniel W. Drezner referred to the seizing of Afghanistan’s reserves to benefit U.S. citizens as “theft.” The Afghan Women’s Network, which represents 4,000 Afghan women’s rights organizations, also immediately opposed the plan, as did former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“The Afghan people are as much victims [of the Taliban] as those families who lost their loved ones are, and withholding money or seizing money from the people of Afghanistan is unjust and an atrocity against the Afghan people,” Karzai commented during a press conference in February. “I request President Joe Biden to reconsider his decision and to return the totality of Afghan reserves back to the people of Afghanistan.”

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