When the US retreated from Afghanistan, the US Treasury froze the reserve assets that belong to Afghanistan.
Though the US cannot legally spend the confiscated money, freezing the assets imposed severe financial sanctions on the Taliban’s state, now called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. According to the World Bank, roughly $10 billion in reserves are stored abroad, reserves the Taliban government cannot use to prop up the war-torn country as it heads into a frozen winter.
Both Beijing, which has been providing economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan since the US retreat and Taliban takeover, and the Taliban are demanding that the US and Europe release the funds, maintaining that the funds are the legal property of the Afghan people.
For example, Ahmad Wali Haqmal, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s finance-ministry spokesman, told Reuters that “The money belongs to the Afghan nation. Just give us our own money. Freezing this money is unethical and is against all international laws and values.”
According to YahooFinance, “Haqmal said that in return for the money, the Taliban would respect the education of women and human rights.”
That statement is likely calculated to appeal to the US, which is justifying its confiscation of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves on the basis of the Taliban’s history of human rights abuses, namely its Sharia-law based refusal to allow the education of women and its forcing women to cover their faces and travel with a male relative. A 2010 survey found that 99% of the Afghan people support Sharia law.
But the Taliban and its bankers aren’t only demanding the money in exchange for liberalization, they’re also issuing threats, especially threats of mass migration directed toward the Europeans.
To pressure the Europeans, the Taliban is hinting that if the funds are not released, then the Afghan people might seek the “greener pastures” of Europe. In ZeroHedge’s words:
Right now, Afghanistan is a drought-stricken, war-torn wasteland where the people are facing the prospect of mass starvation if they don’t seek greener pastures elsewhere.
And where might those greener pastures be? We’ve already seen this play out once before with the Syrian migrant crisis: just like the Syrians, if they fear starvation, persecution or unceasing poverty at home, legions of Afghans are going to seek refugee status in Europe, unleashing the second major migrant crisis within a decade.
And what might the result of such a migrant crisis be for a Europe already struggling under the weight of the Syrian migrant crisis? Political disaster. Again according to ZeroHedge:
the Taliban are now threatening the Europeans with a very simple fact: if the west withholds the money – which in fact belongs to the Afghan people – it will trigger an inevitable humanitarian crisis that will quickly explode since the aid currently being provided to the war-torn country simply isn’t enough.
Once this happens, Afghans will start fleeing to Europe by road, by boat and by any other means, setting off another migrant crisis just as Europe is finally moving past the last one. The political ramifications could be huge: the French grapple with the rise of a new right-wing populist, and many unelected bureaucrats in Brussels fear another resurgence by the anti-migrant anti-globalist right that might succeed this time in overthrowing the globalist world order.
Shah Mehrabi, a board member of the Afghan Central Bank, summarized the issue quite succinctly, telling Reuters that:
“The situation is desperate and the amount of cash is dwindling. There is enough right now … to keep Afghanistan going until the end of the year.
Europe is going to be affected most severely, if Afghanistan does not get access to this money. You will have a double whammy of not being able to find bread and not being able to afford it. People will be desperate. They are going to go to Europe…”
The Taliban’s threats are not without merit. During the days of US involvement, American grants covered about three-quarters of Afghanistan’s spending. Without those funds, Afghanistan could be headed toward disaster. The UN reports that there may be a “humanitarian disaster” in Afghanistan as it heads into a frozen winter without funds to buy fuel or food.
Such a situation could spark a mass migration from Afghanistan to Europe, such as was seen during the peak of Syria’s civil war. That migrant crisis, as was mentioned previously, led to serious political problems for Europe and strained the resources of those European countries that took on the heaviest shares of the massive migrant load.
Neither the US nor the Europeans have announced if they will bow to Taliban demands and release the funds, thus showing weakness, or continue holding the assets and risk sparking a migrant crisis.