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World Bank Proposes Unfreezing Small Portion of Frozen Funds for Afghanistan

Dec. 2, 2021 (EIRNS)—According to an exclusive story by Reuters on Nov. 29, the World Bank’s board of directors decided on Nov. 30 to recommend to the 30-plus donors to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank, that $280 million of the $1.5 billion in the fund be unfrozen, and transferred to the World Food Program and UNICEF for humanitarian work in Afghanistan. The donors, however, must approve the transfer before even this small sum can be distributed, and that includes the ARTF’s largest donor: the United States.

The decision by the World Bank board does not challenge the full financial sanctions paradigm being deployed against Afghanistan, nor is $280 million sufficient to save Afghanistan’s people, but it puts the spotlight on the Biden administration’s continued refusal to end its policy of genocide against the Afghan people and nation. The world should know tomorrow if the U.S. allows even this small crack in its sanctions, as Reuters reports that the donors are “expected to meet” on Dec. 3 to decide on the World Bank’s recommendation.

If the aid is approved, the issue of U.S. sanctions remains an obstacle, even though this humanitarian aid would be channeled to foreign humanitarian entities, not the interim Afghan government. The U.S. Treasury, which is holding $9 billion in funds belonging to Afghanistan, has provided “comfort letters” assuring banks that they can process humanitarian transactions for Afghanistan, but banks remain wary of being accused of breaking sanctions, so aid agencies have had difficulties getting transactions approved even for such basic supplies as food and medicine, as Reuters reports.

Others are mobilizing. Saudi Arabia, as the chair of the Islamic Summit, yesterday called for the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and “pathways for an urgent humanitarian response,” because regional and world peace and stability is threatened by the crisis, WION news reported. The Pakistani government quickly offered to host the meeting on Dec. 17 in Islamabad, with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressing his confidence “that the OIC member states will endorse this offer.”

Even a Bloomberg Opinion editor, Ruth Pollard, issued a warning that if the Biden administration does not lift the sanctions soon, it will be responsible for the kind of mass death which resulted from the Obama administration’s refusal to lift sanctions on Somalia in the face of famine:

“Let’s hope there are some U.S. officials with long memories still walking the halls of power—long enough to recall what happened in Somalia in 2010 and 2011 when it was in the grip of a drought and an insurgency from the al-Qaeda-aligned militant Islamist group al-Shabab. Back then, aid groups warned that without urgent action, including the lifting of U.S. sanctions, there would be a famine. The sanctions stayed in place and the country slipped into famine. The Obama administration lifted the restrictions soon after but by then, many thousands had already died and ultimately, nearly 260,000 perished,”

she wrote.

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