Group Wants More Terror Victims, Not Just From 9/11, to Get Taliban Money

Military personnel and families, some affected by decades-old terrorist attacks, say Congress should open up a pool of confiscated Taliban funds to compensate victims of terrorism and not just those affected by the 9/11 attacks.

The request came in a letter to the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee in both the House and Senate, the Army Times reported Tuesday. The letter is the latest in what could be ongoing wrangling over how to distribute $3.5 billion in Afghan funds frozen by the U.S.

President Joe Biden in February signed an executive order freezing $7 billion in assets of Afghanistan's central bank located in the U.S. The order was intended to prevent the money from falling into the hands of the Taliban, a radical Islamic group who seized control of the country last year.

Khobar Towers Explosion
Military personnel and families urge Congress to open a pool of confiscated Taliban funds to compensate terror victims besides those of the 9/11 attacks. Above, U.S. and Saudi military personnel survey damage to Khobar Towers caused by the explosion of a fuel truck in 1996. Getty staff/Getty Images

The White House noted at the time that $3.5 billion of the assets are subject to ongoing litigation from U.S. victims of terrorism, including relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

But the letter argued that the money should be placed into the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSSTF), which was set up in 2015 to compensate victims who've brought successful legal actions against governments involved in terrorism.

"[The February executive order] ignores the sacrifices made by the U.S. military serving our country abroad and ignores the fundamental premise under which the USVSST[F] was established," the group wrote, according to the Times. "The fund was created by Congress to handle the fair and equitable distribution of funds for the benefit of all U.S. terrorism victims, rather than a select group."

The letter was signed by family members and veterans of terrorist attacks predating 9/11, according to the Times. Those attacks include the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon, North Korea's 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo and others.

The 9/11 disaster left more than 3,000 people killed in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The attack triggered America's 2001 invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban government for harboring Al-Qaeda, the group that masterminded 9/11.

Since then, families of 9/11 victims have gone to court seeking compensation against governments and other entities believed to share some responsibility for the attack.

The White House said in February that 9/11 victims will "have a full opportunity to have their claims heard in court," and that half of the $7 billion seized from Afghanistan's central bank will be used to benefit the Afghan people.

However, 9/11 victim family members have expressed concern that the White House's move would leave them fighting for compensation. Relief groups as well as the Taliban have also criticized the White House's move to freeze the $3.5 billion.

Newsweek has reached out to the House and Senate chairs of the Armed Services Committee for comment.