Friday’s Biden administration was attempting to assure financial institutions that U.S. sanctions against the Taliban weren’t meant to prevent trade that could aid Afghanistan out of an economic and humanitarian crisis.
Senior administration officials stated that a so-called general license was issued by Treasury Department to expand the authorization for financial and commercial transactions in Afghanistan. This was done in the hope of helping Afghans, but not the Taliban.
According to officials, it is designed to resume some commercial activity that was shut down in August after the fall of the U.S-backed government to Taliban.
This is the latest of a series by the administration to address the worsening humanitarian crisis. Aid groups estimate that almost 24 million Afghans, or more than half of the country, are facing severe hunger, and that 9 million of them are at risk of starvation.
Transactions involving Afghanistan or governing bodies in Afghanistan are authorized by the license, except for certain Taliban figures who are subject to sanctions. Samantha Power, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator stated that the license “aims to ensure U.S. sanctions don’t prevent or inhibit transactions and activities necessary to support the basic needs of the peoples of Afghanistan.”
Even before the Taliban tookover, conditions in Afghanistan were dire. There was a long-running drought, and deep poverty. The government’s dependence on foreign aid for 75 percent has made the situation worse.
Officials from the Administration admit that the Treasury license will only have a limited impact on Afghan businesses, despite sanctions against the Taliban and Haqqani Network.
This year, the Biden administration announced over $300 million in humanitarian assistance. It is also working with the World Bank to provide additional relief using money previously reserved for development.
Treasury issued general licenses to clarify that humanitarian assistance will not be in violation of sanctions.
The U.S. also frozen $3.5 billion in Afghan government funds after the Taliban takeover. Officials say that this money was set aside to aid the country’s economic recovery. If the Taliban cannot run the central bank, one option is to use the money for re-capitalization.
In the meantime, the remaining funds have been frozen in anticipation of legal claims by relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks 2001.