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Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, urged President Biden on Sunday to reverse his decision to unfreeze $3.5 billion in Aghan assets held in the U.S. for families of 9/11 victims.
Karzai, who served as the country’s president for 13 years after the Taliban were first ousted after the 9/11 attacks, told reporters in Kabul that the Afghan people are also victims of terrorism.
Biden’s order targets a total of $7 billion in Afghan assets and calls for banks to provide $3.5 billion of the frozen amount to a trust fund for distribution through humanitarian groups for Afghan relief and basic needs. The other $3.5 billion would stay in the U.S. to finance payments from lawsuits by U.S. victims of terrorism that are still working their way through the courts.
“No one punishes the victim,” Karzai said, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News. Karzai said the funds should not be given to the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, but preserved for future generations of Afghans.
The White House said in a statement that the order “is designed to provide a path for the funds to reach the people of Afghanistan, while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and malicious actors.” The U.S. does not recognize the Taliban government.
The Biden administration pushed back against criticism that all $7 billion — largely derived from donations by the U.S. and other nations to Afghanistan — should be released to Afghanistan, arguing that the 9/11 claimants under the U.S. legal system have a right to their day in court.
Afghans have faced one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises since the U.S.’s disastrous withdrawal last summer. The U.N. Development Program estimated that up to a million children under five could die by the end of the year from hunger, UNICEF said, according to an ABC News report.
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Protesters on Saturday gathered outside Kabul’s grand Eid Gah mosque asked America for financial compensation for the tens of thousands of Afghans killed during the last 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report