The Biden administration issued what it called “broad authorisations” to ensure that the United Nations, American government agencies and aid groups can provide humanitarian relief to Afghanistan without running foul of sanctions against the Taliban.
The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released three licences on Wednesday, allowing US government officials and international agencies, including the UN, to conduct “official business” with the Taliban and Haqqani Network. It also authorised NGOs to deal with the two US-blacklisted Afghan groups on activities involving humanitarian projects.
The US move came as Afghanistan faced an economic meltdown since the Taliban seized control of the country in August. The crisis has left nearly 23 million people facing acute food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme.
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said the US is “committed to supporting” Afghans amid the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.
“Treasury has provided broad authorizations that ensure NGOs, international organizations, and the US government can continue to provide relief to those in need,” Adeyemo said in a statement.
The country had long been dependent on foreign aid and most of its foreign assets were frozen after the Taliban takeover. The humanitarian crises have been made worse by the continuing surge of COVID-19 with the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
Earlier on Wednesday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
The resolution said “payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities are permitted.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki welcomed the UN resolution, noting that it was drafted by the United States.
“The resolution also requests periodic updates by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to ensure assistance is reaching the intended beneficiaries,” she said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also voiced support for the UN measure and the Treasury’s authorisations.
“UN sanctions are an important tool to respond to threats and human rights abuses, but we must make sure these sanctions do not hinder the delivery of urgently needed aid to the Afghan people,” he said in a statement.
The Taliban captured Kabul from the US-backed government of former President Ashraf Ghani amid the withdrawal of American troops from the country after a 20-year war.
The international community quickly moved to freeze the Afghan government’s assets, so the Taliban would not gain access to the funds. Washington froze nearly $9.5bn in Afghan assets in August.
Many aid groups and investors also fled the country after the Taliban’s victory. The turmoil prompted a debilitating shortage of funds in Afghanistan.
Last week, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pledged to set up a humanitarian trust fund to combat hunger and poverty in Afghanistan.
“Unless action is taken immediately, Afghanistan is heading for chaos,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said at the time.
“Any government when it can’t pay its salaries for its public servants, hospitals, doctors, nurses, any government is going to collapse but chaos suits no one, it certainly does not suit the United States.”