Afghans Call Biden 'Thief' After He Gives Away Some of Nation's Funds

Six months after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, citizens are accusing U.S. President Joe Biden of stealing aid from those in need.

Last week, Biden signed an executive order that would split in half $7 billion of Afghan assets frozen in the U.S. after the Taliban takeover. Afghanistan will receive $3.5 billion, while the other half will go to American victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks. The move has been widely criticized, with many calling Biden a "thief."

"[The attacks on] 9/11 had nothing to do with Afghans," said one sign at a protest attended by more than 3,000 people. "Shame Shame Mr. Biden, you kill us, you bomb us and now you steal our money."

The legality of such a move has also been questioned by Afghans, including financial adviser Torek Farhadi.

"These reserves belong to the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban," Farhadi told the Associated Press. "Biden's decision is one-sided and does not match with international law. No other country on Earth makes such confiscation decisions about another country's reserves."

This is a belief that many Afghans who have been protesting the reserve split have agreed with. One of the core messages of the recent protests was that Afghanistan, as a country, was not responsible for the September 11 attacks. Thus, they should not have to pay the victims of the attack or their families.

Biden World Thief
A torn banner lies on the ground after a protest condemning President Joe Biden's decision on frozen Afghan assets, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on February 15, 2022. Biden signed an executive order on February 11 to create a pathway to split $7 billion dollars of Afghan assets frozen in the U.S. to fund humanitarian relief in Afghanistan and to create a trust fund to compensate September 11 victims. AP Photo/Hussein Malla

"What about our Afghan people who gave many sacrifices and thousands of losses of lives?" organizer Abdul Rahman said. "This money belongs to the people of Afghanistan, not to the United States. This is the right of Afghans."

The order has also been questioned by Americans, particularly foreign policy analysts. The Wilson Center's ​​Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the center's Asia Program, had harsh words for the new order in a recent tweet.

"It's great that $3.5B in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan has been freed up," he wrote. But to take another $3.5B that belongs to the Afghan people, and divert it elsewhere—that is misguided and quite frankly heartless."

In total, Afghanistan has about $9 billion in overseas assets, with $7 billion in the U.S. The other $2 billion mostly is in the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Switzerland. None of those countries have announced plans to split assets.

Update 2/15/22, 9:38 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from organizers and analysts, as well as more background information.