Thursday, February 23, 2023

Following a court ruling, the Taliban demanded that the United States return $3.5 billion in Afghan assets

Taliban demand US return $3.5 billion in Afghan assets after court ruling

 KABUL: After a New York federal judge ruled that the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks cannot seize the funds, Taliban authorities called on Washington to return $3.5 billion that belonged to Afghanistan's central bank.

After the Taliban stormed back to power in Afghanistan in 2021, the United States took control of the assets, and President Joe Biden said that the money could be given to the families of 9/11 victims.

A group of families has moved to seize the funds to settle the judgment debt after winning a previous lawsuit against the Taliban for their losses.

However, on Tuesday, Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York stated that the federal courts do not have the authority to seize the funds from the central bank of Afghanistan.

In a 30-page opinion, Daniels explained, "The Judgment Creditors are entitled to collect on their default judgments and be made whole for the worst terrorist attack in the history of our nation, but they cannot do so with the funds of the central bank of Afghanistan."

"The Taliban must pay for their responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, not the Afghan people or the former Islamic Republic of Afghanistan."

Additionally, Daniels stated that he was "constitutionally restrained" from awarding the assets to the families because doing so would effectively imply recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government.

The Taliban government has not been recognized by any nation, including the United States.

"The fundamental conclusion is that neither the Taliban nor the Judgment Creditors are entitled to raid the state of Afghanistan's coffers to pay the Taliban's debts," the statement reads.

The families of 9/11 victims and insurance companies that paid out due to the attacks suffer a blow from Daniels' decision, which is in line with a recommendation made by another judge last year.

The families' attorney stated that they would appeal the decision.

Lee Wolosky stated in a statement to AFP, "This decision deprives over 10,000 members of the 9/11 community of their right to collect compensation from the Taliban, a terrorist group that was found liable for the 9/11 attacks on America."

The court's decision was welcomed by the Taliban authorities.

"Afghanistan is the owner of these assets. "There should be no reason to freeze them or not return them to the Afghan people," deputy government spokesman Bilal Karimi told AFP.

"They have to be returned without conditions."

On September 11, 2001, four hijacked planes collided with a field in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and the World Trade Center in New York, killing more than 2,900 people.

Al-Qaeda, a jihadist organization whose leader, Osama bin Laden, had sought refuge in Afghanistan during the first Taliban government that had ruled the country since 1996, carried out the attack.

In response, the then-president George W. Bush authorized the invasion of Afghanistan, which swiftly overthrew the Taliban but set off an insurgency that lasted for years between the Taliban and the Kabul government, which was backed by the US and supported by international forces.

With the withdrawal of US-drove powers in August 2021, the Taliban retook power and reimposed their key variant of Islamic regulation.

Since Washington frozen $7 billion in Afghan assets, the nation's economy has teetered on the verge of collapse and was almost entirely dependent on aid from abroad.

With 38 million people starving and three million children at risk of malnutrition, it is currently facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, according to international aid organizations.

In February 2022, Biden revealed a plan to divide the money so that half would go to Afghanistan aid and the other half to the families of 9/11 victims.

However, the fate of the remaining $3.5 billion set aside for the families in the event that appeals are unsuccessful is still unknown.

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