Crowds of people show their documents to US troops outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. 26 August, 2021. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer)
On 22 December, the US government eased several restrictions on both governmental and non-governmental organizations conducting humanitarian work in Afghanistan.
According to a press release, the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets control (OFAC) “issued three General Licenses to facilitate the continued flow of humanitarian assistance and other support for the Afghan people.”
These General Licenses authorize transactions and activities with the Taliban and related actors for the US government, UN, Red Cross, Islamic Development Bank, humanitarian non-governmental organizations, and others.
The move came mere hours after the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution easing restrictions on humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, specifically by allowing the country to tap into funds that had been frozen by western powers.
All 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, which will be in effect for one year. The UNSC will consider its extension next December.
The resolution also states that the money for humanitarian needs is not subject to the restrictions introduced against the Taliban. However, it also specifies that it will only allow the funding of humanitarian aid, not efforts to rebuild the country.
A day prior to the US easing of restrictions, hundreds of protesters marched to the shuttered US embassy in Kabul demanding that the US government release billions of dollars of Afghan funds it froze in August, following the return of the Taliban to power.
The protesters carried banners denouncing the decision by the US government to continue blocking the Afghan government from accessing its own funds, even as millions of people in the country are on the verge of starvation.
Afghanistan has been going through an economic crisis for the last two decades due to 20 years of conflict triggered by the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
The crisis has been worsened by the punitive economic sanctions the US imposed on the country following the return of the Taliban to power on 15 August 2021.