The Taliban-controlled central bank of Afghanistan posted several images to Twitter last week showing a large pallet of cash sitting on an airport runway.
The bank claimed the pallet contained $40 million in various currencies, including U.S. dollars, and was delivered as “humanitarian aid” by unspecified donors.
۱۲ جمادی الاول ۱۴۴۴ – بسته دیگر ۴۰ میلیون دالری کمک های بشردوستانه به افغانستان مواصلت نمود و به یکی از بانکهای تجارتی در کابل سپرده شده. در هفته روان این دومین بسته است که به افغانستان مواصلت میکند. pic.twitter.com/q6DHMdlmE3
— Da Afghanistan Bank- Afghanistan (@AFGCentralbank) December 6, 2022
“This is the second package that has arrived in Afghanistan this week,” the financial institution, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, claimed.
The bank expressed its appreciation for “any principled action that leads to the transfer of reserves to the country and helps the needy people of the society,” and pledged to “continue its efforts in strengthening the banking sector.”
After posting still more images of the carefully wrapped stacks of money, Da Afghanistan Bank claimed the cash was “handed over to a commercial bank in Kabul.”
۱۴۴۴ جمادي الاول ۱۱ مه – افغانستان ته د ۴۰ میلیون ډالرو نغدي بشري مرستې کڅوړه را ورسېده او په کابل کې یو سوداګریز بانک ته و سپارل شوه.https://t.co/wQwMRuuRqE pic.twitter.com/9CvkXSnxnq
— Da Afghanistan Bank- Afghanistan (@AFGCentralbank) December 5, 2022
Da Afghanistan Bank made several nearly identical claims of receiving millions in foreign cash over the past few months, without ever specifying who made the donations. The amount cited by the bank in pallet-of-cash claims from September and November was also $40 million. In November, Da Afghanistan Bank claimed two $40 million pallets of cash received days apart were in addition to funds provided for humanitarian aid.
The Taliban’s Bakhtar News Agency reported the latest money shipment brought Afghanistan’s total foreign cash reserves up to almost $1.5 billion in U.S. dollars.
“Pallets of cash” became a sarcastic meme about irresponsible foreign policy after former President Barack Obama sent a gigantic amount of cash to Iran as ransom for four American hostages, and a down payment on his nuclear deal, in early 2016.
The eye-popping photos of a cargo plane unloading pallets of bills originally covered about $400 million, but the Obama administration eventually admitted paying an astounding $1.7 billion to the terror masters of Tehran in hard currency.
The Taliban has long insisted Afghanistan’s economy will continue to falter without infusions of hard currency, including $3.5 billion in assets frozen by the U.S. government after the fall of Kabul. These assets were technically unfrozen by the Biden administration in September, but they were moved to a monitored fund that can supposedly only be used for humanitarian services and stabilizing the Afghan economy. The Taliban government desires much more direct control over the money.
The U.S. froze more than $7 billion of Afghan foreign reserves over a year ago. Now the Biden administration is moving half the money to a new Geneva-based foundation that can utilize the funds without going through the Taliban. https://t.co/RmZOHbjigz
— U.S. Institute of Peace (@USIP) October 1, 2022
“The Taliban’s repression and economic mismanagement have exacerbated long-standing economic challenges for Afghanistan, including through actions that have diminished the capacity of key Afghan economic institutions and made the return of these funds to Afghanistan untenable,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said when announcing the creation of the Afghan Fund in September.
International humanitarian agencies say it is difficult for them to render aid to sick and starving Afghan civilians without infusions of currency needed for buying supplies and hiring local workers. Humanitarian funds are needed even more urgently with the difficult Afghanistan winter underway.
On the other hand, there is understandable apprehension about putting cash money in the hands of the Taliban, which is likely to divert the funds to military and terrorist endeavors, or simply pocket a good deal of it. Even if they so not steal it outright, $40 million in humanitarian aid for food and medicine frees up $40 million for the Taliban to spend on malign activities. The Taliban is also frequently accused of using outside aid as a political weapon, by diverting it to favored citizens while leaving dissenters to starve.
Australia’s ABC News contacted the United Nations over the weekend to ask if the pallets of cash trumpeted by Da Afghanistan Bank were real and if they were delivered by U.N. agencies. The U.N. did not respond by press time, and the Da Afghanistan Bank was unwilling to answer further questions about the money.
Dr. Anas Iqtait of the Center of Arab and Islamic Studies at Australian National University told ABC News the money probably did not come from the U.S. Afghan Fund but might have been sent by another government inclined to “show leniency towards the Taliban government” by “injecting some cash to stabilize the central bank.”
“What is very clear is that it is not clear where this cash is being shipped from,” Iqtait remarked sardonically.
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