Taliban Says U.S. Sanctions, Frozen Assets Harming Afghans Amid Worsening Poverty

The Taliban is pressing the U.S. to reduce sanctions and release Afghanistan's frozen assets, saying they are harming Afghans amid worsening poverty, the Associated Press reported.

Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said the frozen assets are hurting the public, from the health sector to education and other services, in a statement posted online. His comments were posted a day after the World Food Program (WFP) said that millions of people in Afghanistan are facing poverty. It also warns that Afghanistan is becoming the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, according to Business Insider.

In an open letter to U.S. lawmakers, Muttaqi said: "American sanctions have not only played havoc with trade and business, but also with humanitarian assistance."

The U.S. government has seized about $9.5 billion in assets that belong to the Afghan central bank, Al Jazeera reported. Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyomo told a U.S. Senate committee in October that he didn't see a situation where the Taliban would be given access to the Afghan center bank reserves.

Afghanistan's economy has practically collapsed, as civil servants work without pay and the treasury can't afford the cost of imports.

The Taliban asked foreign governments, as well as the U.S., to release their assets back in October, Newsweek reported. Countries moved to freeze the assets when the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed Afghan government. The U.S. refused then, while several European nations said they would consider releasing the assets. However, assets have yet to be released.

While Western powers want to avoid a humanitarian crisis, nations haven't acknowledged the new government.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghanistan, Taliban, Poverty, U.S.
The Taliban said U.S. sanctions and Afghanistan's frozen assets are harming Afghans amid worsening poverty. Above, a Taliban fighter stands guard as women wait in line during a World Food Program food distribution in Kabul on November 6, 2021. Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

The WFP warned on Tuesday that of Afghanistan's nearly 40 million people, some 8.7 million people are at risk of facing "famine-like conditions." An additional 14.1 million are suffering acute food insecurity, the WFP said.

According to the group's report, 600,000 displaced people, as well as drought in the country are adding to the poverty.

The country also is struggling with the attacks mostly targeting civilians in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in August.

An explosion hit a minivan in a Shiite neighborhood of western Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least one person and wounding three others, a Taliban official said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, deputy minister for culture and information in the Taliban-led government, told AP that an investigation is continuing. He did not elaborate.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for a blast on Saturday that killed one person and wounded five others. A roadside bomb struck a taxi in Kabul on Monday, wounding two people.