Taliban call on Biden to reverse move to halve frozen Afghan funds

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FILE PHOTO: Afghan men enjoy the general view of the city from the top of a hill in Kabul

KABUL – The Taliban on Monday warned that it would reconsider its policy towards the United States if President Joe Biden did not reverse his “unjustified” decision to return only half of Afghanistan’s $7 billion deposited on U.S. soil.

The United States will free up half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on U.S. soil to help Afghans struggling with a humanitarian crisis and hold the rest to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the Taliban.

“If the United States does not deviate from its position and continues its provocative actions, the Islamic Emirate will also be forced to reconsider its policy towards the country,” said a statement from the Taliban released by its spokesman on Monday.

“The Islamic Emirate strongly rejects Biden’s unjustified actions as a violation of the rights of all Afghans,” it added.

Biden’s plan calls for half of the funds to remain in the United States subject to ongoing litigation by U.S. victims of terrorism, including relatives of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks.

“The 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Afghans,” the Taliban statement said.

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While none of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers were Afghan, the mastermind of the attacks, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, was given refuge by the then Taliban government.

The statement said the United States will face “international blame” and damage its relations with Afghans if the decision was not reversed.

Separately, in an interview to Afghan state media RTA, Mullah Yaqoob – the acting Afghan defence minister and the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar – also termed the decision “cruel”.

“No Afghan was involved in that incident (9/11) at all,” said Yaqoob, whose father was the Taliban’s supreme leader at the time of the attacks and refused to hand over bin Laden, following which the United States sent in its military to Afghanistan.

The invasion started a 20-year war that ended only last year after the United States and other international militaries pulled out of Afghanistan, leaving the Taliban to take over once again.

(Reporting by Kabul newsroom; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Alistair Bell)