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International economists urge Biden to release Afghan central bank funds

In a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday, more than 70 economists and specialists, including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, urged Washington and other countries to release Afghanistan’s central bank assets.


Despite criticism of the ruling Taliban’s treatment of women and minorities, the letter demanded that Western governments return to Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) the roughly $9 billion in assets that make up the Afghan central bank.


The letter said that “the people of Afghanistan have been made to suffer twice as much for a government they did not pick.” “We encourage you to permit DAB to return its overseas funds in order to lessen the humanitarian catastrophe and put the Afghan economy on a path toward recovery.”


71 economists and academic specialists, many of whom are based in the United States as well as Germany, India, and the United Kingdom, signed the letter, which was also addressed to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen of the United States. Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister for Greece, and Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University and member of the advisory board for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, were two of them.


Since the Taliban assumed control of the country about a year ago when Western forces departed, the economy of Afghanistan has fallen deeply into disaster. The unexpected reduction in aid and other elements, such as inflation brought on by the crisis in Ukraine, have all played a role, but economists claim that the country is badly hindered by the central bank’s incapacity to operate without access to its reserves.


The Afghan currency has suffered a severe depreciation as a result, driving up import prices and causing the banking sector to almost completely collapse, making it difficult for people to access their savings and be paid.


The letter stated that the central bank of Afghanistan “cannot perform its usual, necessary functions without access to its foreign reserves…the economy of Afghanistan has, unsurprisingly, collapsed.”


The Taliban, whom they have condemned for severely restricting women’s freedoms in the past year and allegedly committing human rights abuses like vendettas against former enemies, are among the groups that Washington and other capitals claim they want to find a way to release the funds for the benefit of the Afghan people without benefiting.


According to the Taliban, they uphold human rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law, and any violations will be looked into.


Both parties are in-depth conversations regarding potential plans to release the central bank assets, some $7 billion of which are held in the United States, despite their sharply divergent positions. Approximately half of that is being set aside because it is the focus of a legal dispute involving the 9/11 attacks.


The United States continues to object to the Taliban’s choice of a deputy governor of the central bank who is subject to U.S. sanctions as a major point of contention in the banking negotiations.


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