News Release

As Afghans Face Starvation, Biden Is Withholding $7 Billion of Their Money


A year after the U.S. withdrawal of major military ground forces from Afghanistan, the U.S. government is still holding on to billions of dollars that belong to Afghanistan, helping to cause economic collapse in the country which is threatened with mass starvation.

Reuters reports on a letter sent by 70 economists to President Joe Biden urging him to allow the central bank of Afghanistan access to $7 billion in foreign reserves owned by Afghanistan that the administration blocked access to last year following the Taliban takeover of the Afghan government.

Among the signers is Joseph Stiglitz, a famed Columbia University professor, and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

In “Afghanistan’s economic calamity,” Axios quotes another signer, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy research: “This is a form of collective punishment. …If there was a war going on, it would be a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.”Axios notes: “The poverty rate is 70 percent, with more than half the population suffering from acute food insecurity.”

The economists write that the reserves are crucial for Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), as the central bank is called, to function. And, without an operational central bank, the Afghan economy is not able to work properly, with many unable to receive salaries and the government unable to perform basic monetary duties and is limited in paying for imports.

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton,
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which organized the letter by the economists. Earlier this year, he wrote the piece “Biden’s Sanctions on Afghanistan Could Kill More Civilians Than Two Decades of War” for USA Today.

Professor emeritus at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education, Wahab was senior adviser to the education ministry in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2013. He taught full time at the American University of Afghanistan from 2013 to October 2019. He was recently featured on the IPA news release “Calls for U.S. to Unfreeze Afghan Funds” and calls the situation “a total calamity.”

Background: “Why is the White House stealing $7bn from Afghans?” Moustafa Bayoumi asked in The Guardian earlier this year.