Cash Transfers to Afghanistan Are Funding Taliban Torture, Resistance Commander Warns

Funds designed ostensibly for humanitarian aid are being diverted by Taliban NGOs, the resistance alleges.

Via National Resistance Front of Afghanistan
Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, the celebrated 'Lion of Panjshir.' Via National Resistance Front of Afghanistan

President Biden’s hasty surrender of Afghanistan and the swift Taliban takeover have placed Washington in an awkward position: Can America deliver humanitarian aid to a needy, impoverished country without lining the pockets of a terrorist organization’s bigwigs and furthering their cruel hold on power?

It looks like the answer to that question is, “No.” 

“Afghanistan is like a prison today where prisoners are being given the electric chair,” and outside humanitarian aid “is providing the electricity, the fuel, and paying the prison guard,” the commander of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, Ahmad Massoud, tells the Sun. 

The son of the martyred sheik Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as the Lion of Panjshir, a longtime American ally, Mr. Massoud believes that cash deliveries to the Kabul airport come from America — and that they supply his enemies with “a lifeline.” Without them, “the Taliban will not survive,” Mr. Massoud says. 

Last year the Taliban-controlled central bank, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, began posting on its Twitter account photos of pallets of an estimated $40 million in small denomination Federal Reserve notes. They were packed in casings and sat at the Kabul airport’s tarmac. In the tweet, the bank thanked those who have sent the cash, meant to “help the needy.” 

The photographed delivery was part of an infusion of cash arriving monthly at the airport last year, sources tell the Sun. A new delivery was expected this week. “The Talibs are going to receive eighty (80,000,000) US$ consolidation funds in the name of humanitarian aid,” a pre-Taliban elected official, Amrullah Saleh, tweeted.

A former vice president of Afghanistan, Mr. Saleh, who now tweets as Afghanistan’s “acting president,” notes that the new cash delivery occurs just a week after women were “erased” by the Taliban “from all types of work & education” in the country. 

Following last month’s Taliban ban on women working for non-governmental organizations, many foreign NGOs that have worked to deliver aid in the country have suspended their activities.  

A U.S. treasury department representative said the cash deliveries are not part of the Afghanistan Fund — which contains $3.5 billion in assets that Washington has held since the Taliban took over, but was unfrozen for use in humanitarian aid. The Fund is now held in a Swiss Bank, according to a Treasury Department press release

The cash deliveries to the Kabul airport are “definitely” not sent by the treasury department, the representative told the Sun in an email. Yet, Washington’s aid to Afghanistan is far from fully transparent, critics say. 

The Biden administration has “stonewalled” inquiries about $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid that has been spent “to support the Afghan people since the Taliban’s takeover,” the American special inspector-general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, wrote in a recent report.

For the first time in its history, Mr. Sopko wrote, his office is unable “to provide Congress and the American people with a full accounting of this US government spending, due to the noncooperation of several US government agencies.” 

Separately, the United Nations humanitarian operation in Afghanistan is financed with money from the UN’s annual budget, nearly a quarter of which is funded by America. The UN sends cash to Afghanistan because the country’s central bank has been cut off from the international system. 

“These funds are distributed directly to the United Nations agencies, funds, and  programs, and humanitarian partners in Afghanistan,” the UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, tells the Sun.  

Hard-to-trace cash deliveries meant for various UN agencies and “partners,” however, go to Taliban-controlled banks, making it easy to finance Taliban pet projects and favored allies.  

“The chair of the bank is on the UN terror list & was finance chief of terror attacks,” Mr. Saleh noted further in a tweet, referring to Ahmed Agha, a Taliban member now at Da Afghanistan Bank. 

Supporters of the cash deliveries say that without foreign cash, everything from food deliveries to starved Afghans to salary payments for teachers would cease. “Deliveries of the fund must continue,” a member of the central bank’s supreme council, Shah Mehrabi, says.

As a harsh winter sets in on the impoverished country, foreign aid is essential to maintain the country’s stability, Mr. Mehrabi, who teaches economics at Montgomery College in Maryland, said. “Afghans should not suffer because of the regime that has come to power,” he tells the Sun. If the funds ceased, he adds, the Taliban may well increase, rather than stop, their oppressive measures. 

In contrast, the anti-Taliban insurgency leader, Mr. Massoud, says the funds further entrench the Taliban’s hold on the country. “I have evidence that the Taliban have set up more than 900 NGOs in the last year alone to divert this aid to themselves by allowing their relatives and other associates to register organizations on their behalf,” Mr. Massoud says in an extensive interview last week. “The corruption is increasing everyday and the current system lacks transparency.”

The district of Ghorband in Parwan Province, which has “supported the Taliban for many years,” is one area that gets “24 times more aid than the province’s other districts,” Mr. Massoud said. “We clearly see discrimination in the way it’s being distributed.”

“For this aid to positively impact ordinary citizens,” the National Resistance leader adds, “the international community has to adopt a better mechanism and system that guarantees its transparency and prevents any amount to be exploited by the Taliban.”

Groups opposing the Taliban are “not against humanitarian aid,” a colleague of Mr. Massoud’s, Ali Nazary, told the Sun last month. “We’re against the current system that benefits the Taliban.” 

The New York Sun

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