Afghan demonstrators protest US President Joe Biden’s decision to steal Afghanistan’s foreign reserves (Photo credit: Associated Press / Hussein Malla)
A US judge has recommended halting representatives of the 11 September terrorist attack victims from tapping into billions of dollars worth of assets withheld from Afghanistan’s national reserves, citing legality.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn recommended on 26 August that victims of the 9/11 attacks should not be allowed to access the $3.5 billion held by the Biden administration in response to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
“The law limits what compensation the court may authorize and Afghanistan’s assets [under these current conditions] are beyond its authority,” Netburn announced.
The judge argues that using these frozen assets to compensate the victims’ families would acknowledge the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
Netburn’s recommendation will be reviewed by US District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan, who oversees the litigation and has the responsibility to make a decision on the matter.
Nevertheless, the court order would remain pending, considering ongoing talks between the US and Taliban to unfreeze withheld foreign reserves in a bid to “stabilize the economy.”
The US government is considering a transfer of Afghanistan’s reserves into a proposed Swiss-based trust fund. Disbursements of the funds would reportedly be made with the help of an international board and bypass the Taliban.
However, a number of relatives of the 9/11 victims called on President Joe Biden in June to release the funds from Afghanistan’s foreign reserves.
Families of the victims stated that, while they accepted having filed lawsuits seeking restitution for their losses, they never intended for such compensation.
“This money belongs to them, not to us,” the letter stated. “To put it simply, this money belongs to the Afghan people, not 9/11 families, and they need it more,” they added.
The US war destroyed Afghanistan’s economy and infrastructure, leaving the country dependent on international aid for over 75 percent of its decreasing national budget.
With the rise of the Taliban, western sanctions aggravated the current economic situation of Afghanistan, forcing millions into an acute humanitarian crisis.
As a result, Taliban officials sought ways to overcome the crisis by deepening ties with neighboring countries, Russia and China.
The Taliban has offered to barter local Afghan products such as minerals, dried fruits, and medicinal herbs with Russia in exchange for much-needed fuel products ahead of winter.