Afghanistan Low on Physical Cash After Taliban Takeover as Reserves Held Outside Nation

Afghanistan is low on physical U.S. dollars after the Taliban takeover because most of the nation's $9 billion in reserves are held outside the country, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

"The amount of such cash remaining is close to zero due a stoppage of shipments as the security situation deteriorated, especially during the last few days," Ajmal Ahmady, Economic Advisor to the Afghanistan president, tweeted.

The next shipment of cash was not delivered, likely because Afghanistan's partners "had good intelligence as to what was going to happen," according to Ahmady.

He said the lack of physical cash could lead to the depreciation of the afghani, Afghanistan's currency. Many Afghans lined up at ATMs to pull out their life's savings.

Ahmady said the international sanctions will cause the Taliban to struggle to gain access to the country's reserves.

He added that the "Taliban won militarily — but now have to govern," and the group will not have an easy time doing so.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghanistan Low on Physical Cash
Afghanistan is low on physical U.S. dollars after the Taliban takeover as most of its $9 billion in reserves are outside of the country. In this photo, Taliban fighters stand along a road in Kabul on August 18, 2021 following the Taliban stunning takeover of Afghanistan. Hoshang Hashimi/Getty Images

The insurgents' every action in their sudden sweep to power is being watched closely. They insist they have changed and won't impose the same draconian restrictions they did when they last ruled Afghanistan, all but eliminating women's rights, carrying out public executions and harboring al-Qaida in the years before the 9/11 attacks.

But many Afghans remain deeply skeptical, and the violent response to Wednesday's protest could only fuel their fears. Thousands are racing to the airport and borders to flee the country. Many others are hiding inside their homes, fearful after prisons and armories were emptied during the insurgents' blitz across the country.

Dozens of people gathered in the eastern city of Jalalabad to raise the national flag a day before Afghanistan's Independence Day, which commemorates the end of British rule in 1919. They lowered the Taliban flag — a white banner with an Islamic inscription — that the militants have raised in the areas they captured.

Video footage later showed the Taliban firing into the air and attacking people with batons to disperse the crowd. Babrak Amirzada, a reporter for a local news agency, said he and a TV cameraman from another agency were beaten by the Taliban as they tried to cover the unrest.

A local health official said at least one person was killed and six wounded. The official was not authorized to speak to media and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, videos from the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, a stronghold of the Northern Alliance militias that allied with the U.S. against the Taliban in 2001, appear to show potential opposition figures gathering there. It's in the only province that hasn't yet fallen to the Taliban.

Those figures include members of the deposed government — Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who asserted on Twitter that he is the country's rightful president and Defense Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi — as well as Ahmad Massoud, the son of the slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. It's unclear if they intend to challenge to the Taliban, who seized most of the country in a matter of days last week.

The Taliban, meanwhile, pressed ahead with their efforts to form an "inclusive, Islamic government." They have been holding talks with former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the ousted government. Mohammad Yusof Saha, a spokesman for Karzai, said preliminary meetings with Taliban officials would facilitate eventual negotiations with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top Taliban political leader, who returned to the country this week.

Karzai and Abdullah met Wednesday with Anas Haqqani, a senior leader in a powerful Taliban faction. The U.S. branded the Haqqani network a terrorist group in 2012, and its involvement in a future government could trigger international sanctions.

Amid the uncertainty, thousands of Afghans have tried to flee the country in recent days, and the U.S. and its allies have struggled to manage a chaotic withdrawal from the country.

Hundreds of people were outside the airport early Wednesday. The Taliban demanded to see documents before allowing the rare passenger inside. Many of the people outside did not appear to have passports, and each time the gate opened even an inch, dozens tried to push through. The Taliban fired occasional warning shots to disperse them.

In Kabul, groups of Taliban fighters carrying long guns patrolled a well-to-do neighborhood that is home to many embassies as well as mansions of the Afghan elite.

The Taliban have promised to maintain security, but residents say groups of armed men have been going door to door inquiring about Afghans who worked with the Americans or the deposed government. It's unclear if the gunmen are Taliban or criminals posing as militants.

Another Taliban promise being closely watched is their vow to prevent Afghanistan from again being used as a base for planning terrorist attacks. That was enshrined in a 2020 peace deal with the Trump administration that paved the way for the drawdown of American troops, the last of whom are supposed to leave at the end of the month.

When the Taliban were last in power they sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida group, which carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. officials fear al-Qaida and other groups could reconstitute themselves in Afghanistan now that the Taliban are back in power.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the Taliban blew up a statue depicting Abdul Ali Mazari, a militia leader killed by the Taliban in 1996, when the Islamic militants seized power from rival warlords. Mazari was a champion of Afghanistan's ethnic Hazara minority, Shiites who were persecuted under the Sunni Taliban's earlier rule. That further raised concerns about whether they would make good on their promises, including not seeking revenge on those who have opposed them.

Afghanistan Low on Physical Cash
Taliban fighters patrol in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. The Taliban declared an "amnesty" across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country. Rahmat Gul/Associated Press