Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has called a White House order to unfreeze $3.5bn in Afghan assets held in the United States for families of 9/11 victims an atrocity against the Afghan people.
Karzai, at a packed news conference, sought the help of Americans, particularly the families of the thousands killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, to press President Joe Biden to rescind last week’s order.
“The people of Afghanistan share the pain of the American people, share the pain of the families and loved ones of those who died, who lost their lives in the tragedy of September 11,” said Karzai.
“We commiserate with them [but] Afghan people are as much victims as those families who lost their lives. Withholding money or seizing money from the people of Afghanistan in their name is unjust and unfair and an atrocity against Afghan people.”
President Biden’s order, signed last Friday, freed $7.1bn in Afghan assets currently held in the US, to be divided between September 11 victims and humanitarian aid to Afghans.
September 11 attack victims and the families of victims have filed legal claims against the Taliban and the $7.1bn in the US banking system.
The $3.5bn was set aside for a US court to decide whether it can be used to settle claims by families of 9/11 victims.
US courts would also have to sign off before the release of humanitarian assistance money.
We “ask the US courts to do the opposite, to return the Afghan money back to the Afghan people”, said Karzai.
“This money does not belong to any government … this money belongs to the people of Afghanistan.”
Taliban delegation in Qatar
Meanwhile, on Sunday, a Taliban delegation arrived in Qatar in a new bid to convince governments to provide humanitarian aid.
The delegation, led by Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, will meet with a European Union delegation in Doha, diplomatic missions and officials from Gulf countries.
The latest bid to unlock aid follows meetings in Oslo late last month between Taliban representatives and governments that heavily bankrolled Afghanistan’s previous government, which imploded in the face of a Taliban military offensive in August last year.
The Taliban government has yet to gain formal recognition from any country and the United Nations says that half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people face food shortages.
But while Muttaqi told the AFP news agency earlier this month that the Taliban is inching closer to international recognition, his delegation is again expected to face demands to improve human and women’s rights in the Doha talks, set to begin on Monday.