KABUL: Protesters in the Afghan capital on Saturday condemned President Joe Biden’s order releasing $3.5 billion in Afghan assets held in the United States for the families of American victims of 9/11 – saying the money belongs to the Afghans.
Protesters who gathered outside Kabul’s Eid Gah Grand Mosque have demanded financial compensation from America for the tens of thousands of Afghans killed in the past 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
Biden’s order, signed on Friday, allocates an additional $3.5 billion in Afghan assets for humanitarian assistance to a trust fund to be managed by the UN to provide aid to Afghans.
The country’s economy is on the verge of collapse after international money stopped flowing into Afghanistan with the arrival of the Taliban in mid-August.
Torek Farhadi, a financial adviser to the former US-backed Afghan government, questioned the UN on the management of Afghan Central Bank reserves.
He said the funds are not for humanitarian aid but “to support the country’s currency, help with monetary policy and manage the country’s balance of payments.”
He also questioned the legality of Biden’s order.
“These reserves belong to the Afghan people, not the Taliban… Biden’s decision is unilateral and does not correspond to international law,” Farhadi said. “No other country on Earth makes such decisions to confiscate another country’s reserves.”
“What about our Afghan people who have made many sacrifices and thousands of deaths?” asked the organizer of the demonstration, Abdul Rahman, a civil society activist.
Rahman said he plans to hold more demonstrations in the capital to protest Biden’s order. “This money belongs to the Afghan people, not to the United States. It is the right of Afghans,” he said.
Signs misspelled in English accused the United States of being cruel and stealing Afghans’ money.
Taliban political spokesman Mohammad Naeem accused the Biden administration in a tweet Friday night of showing “the lowest level of humanity…of a country and a nation.”
Biden’s order on Friday generated a social media storm with Twitter saying #USA_stole_money_from_afghan was trending among Afghans. The tweets repeatedly emphasized that the 9/11 hijackers were not Afghans.
Obaidullah Baheer, senior lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan and social activist, tweeted: “Remind the world that #AfghansDidntCommit911 and #BidenStealingAfgMoney!”
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was brought to Afghanistan by Afghan warlords after he was expelled from Sudan in 1996. These same warlords later allied themselves with the US-led coalition to oust the Taliban in 2001. However, it was Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. who refused to hand Bin Laden over to the United States after the devastating September 11 attacks that left thousands dead.
Still, some analysts have taken to Twitter to question Biden’s order.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the US-based Wilson Center, called Biden’s order to embezzle $3.5 billion from Afghanistan “heartless”.
“It’s great that $3.5 billion in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan has been released. But taking another $3.5 billion that belongs to the Afghan people and diverting it elsewhere is wrong and frankly heartless,” he tweeted.
Kugelman also said opposition to Biden’s order has crossed Afghanistan’s wide political divide.
“I can’t remember the last time so many people with such different worldviews were so united around a US policy decision on Afghanistan,” he tweeted.