It’s Afghan money: Biden shouldn’t reserve $3.5B for subset of terrorism victims

In an executive order last month, President Joe Biden moved to divide and release $7 billion from Afghanistan’s central bank — funds frozen after the Taliban takeover of the country. Half would go to meet urgent Afghan humanitarian needs, and half would apparently be disbursed to a subset of U.S. terrorism victims’ families who’d recently won claims against the Taliban in Manhattan federal court. (We say apparently because the language of the order isn’t entirely clear.)

Biden’s split of the baby fails on two accounts.


First, if one accepts that some of the money should aid American victims of terror, the sum should not be parceled out to a small group that, in what amounts to a legal fluke, happens to have won judgments against the Taliban for facilitating the Sept. 11 attacks — excluding most 9/11 families and many victims of other Taliban crimes. It should be disseminated through the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, set up by Congress in 2015 to ensure equitable distribution of recovered cash to terrorism victims.

But the bigger problem is that Biden is redirecting money that isn’t his to redirect. The funds weren’t Taliban property, but property of the legitimate, pre-Taliban Afghan government — meaning, of the Afghan people. As U.S. troops hightailed it and the Taliban swarmed in, it made sense for America to freeze these accounts to prevent the bad guys from exploiting them. And it makes sense for Biden now to look for a way to get some of the trove around the Taliban and straight to Afghans, who face acute risk of starvation.

What isn’t right or fair is to claim half of the sum for Americans, no matter how noble or sympathetic their cause. We proudly champion the interests of 9/11 families. But these funds didn’t belong to terrorists or to a government that sheltered them. They belonged, and still belong, to the 40 million citizens of an impoverished nation, a people desperate for help.

— New York Daily News

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