US officially allows remittance payments back to Afghanistan, despite sanctions on Taliban

Millions in the country are facing the threat of famine

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Sunday 12 December 2021 01:33 GMT
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The US has formally authorised personal remittance payments to Afghanistan, a crucial lifeline as millions in the country face extreme hunger after the Taliban takeover of the government and the international community continues to sanction the new regime.

On Friday, the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control announce it would allow non-commercial remittances, even those that incidentally pass through the hands of entities affiliated with sanctioned groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

Even with the remittances, humanitarian experts are warning that Afghans are facing a dire predicament, after the collapse of the internationally recognised government and pullout of US forces in August.

Nearly 23 million people in the country are facing “severe food insecurity” according to Mary Ellen McGroarty, director of the United Nations World Food Program in Afghanistan.

"I’ve been with WFP for a long time, 20-plus years, and I’ve never seen a crisis unfold and escalate at the pace and scale that we are seeing," she told CBS on Friday.

When the Taliban took power, numerous countries paused foreign aid to the country and froze Afghan assets as a means to pressure the armed group to negotiate.  The US alone froze $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghanistan central bank.Even transactions outside of official government channels have slowed, with businesses worried about the potential for sanctions from the US and others.

American officials have denied responsibility for these financial measures causing the humanitarian crisis in the country it occupied for two decades. "U.S. sanctions on the Taliban are not the cause of the calamities facing the Afghan economy, and these additional authorizations will not resolve the fundamental causes of the situation," a Treasury spokesperson told Reuters on Friday.

The remittance announcement came the same day that the World Bank announced it had freed up $280 million for reconstruction in Afghanistan, directing UNICEF and the World Food Programme to channel the resources.

“UNICEF and WFP have presence and logistics capacity on the ground in Afghanistan and will use these funds to cover financing gaps in their existing programs to deliver health and nutrition services directly to the Afghan people, in accordance with their own policies and procedures,” the body said in a statement.

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