Taliban to West: "Just give us our money" and skip the humanitarian lectures

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Or else … what, exactly? The Taliban theocrats now running Afghanistan want Western nations to unfreeze more than $9 billion in assets in order to avoid a humanitarian disaster. They don’t expect the US to unlock access to the bulk of it, but they want the EU to at least release the assets they hold.

They’re not willing to trade for it either, at least not on the same humanitarian basis on which they demand action:

A spokesman for the finance ministry said the government would respect human rights, including the education of women, as he sought fresh funds on top of humanitarian aid that he said offered only “small relief”.

Under Taliban rule from 1996-2001, women were largely shut out of paid employment and education and normally had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative when they left home.

“The money belongs to the Afghan nation. Just give us our own money,” ministry spokesman Ahmad Wali Haqmal told Reuters. “Freezing this money is unethical and is against all international laws and values.”

Supposedly, this money will prevent a wave of migration of desperate people out of Afghanistan and into Europe and the West. “People will be desperate,” one board member of the Afghan Central Bank told Reuters, and “they are going to go to Europe.” Apparently the Taliban haven’t noticed that desperate people have been attempting to leave Afghanistan in droves ever since the radical Islamists took over Kabul, some so desperate that they died by clinging to the airplanes taking off out of the nearby airport.

That’s also in large part due to the Taliban’s own take on “humanitarian” issues. They aptly demonstrated their level of concern for such niceties when they beheaded a female athlete who previously competed on their national volleyball team, and then posted the pictures of her decapitation on social media. Ask female judges in Afghanistan about the Taliban’s care for humanitarianism, for that matter … assuming you can find them ahead of the Taliban, who want to murder every last one of them for sitting in judgment on men.

Still, the humanitarian argument seems to be winning in the international community, and nowhere more so than with the Biden administration. The US will send the Taliban another $144 million, reports the Washington Post, bringing the post-withdrawal “donations” up to almost a half-billion dollars:

The United States will provide nearly $144 million in new aid to those affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the White House announced Thursday.

The additional funds will bring the total U.S. aid in the country and for Afghan refugees in that region to nearly $474 million this year, “the largest amount of assistance from any nation,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement. …

“To be clear, this humanitarian assistance will benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban, whom we will continue to hold accountable for the commitments they have made,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Thursday.

One can only believe that if one has never encountered a totalitarian government receiving aid through NGOs before. The partner orgs still operating in Afghanistan will only be able to function with Taliban blessing and protection, and that means $$$$. Of course this money will benefit the Taliban, and not just monetarily but also politically. Keeping the right people fed — likely the Pashtuns will get most if not all of this assistance — will help keep the Taliban from getting overthrown in the short term. Anyone who doesn’t understand this doesn’t belong in international relations.

The question is what we get for that money. So far, it doesn’t appear that we’re getting Americans out of Afghanistan, and in fact the acknowledged number of US citizens abandoned by Joe Biden keeps growing. We can add another 76 to State’s tally, Jim Geraghty notes:

State Department: We Found Another 76 Americans in Afghanistan We Missed Earlier

Last Thursday, the U.S. State Department informed congressional staff that it is in touch with 363 American citizens in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave, according to Jennifer Hansler, who covers the department for CNN.

On Tuesday Colin Kahl, under secretary of defense for policy, testified before the Senate and said in response to questions from Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma that, “In terms of how many American citizens we estimate are currently Afghanistan, the Department of State is in contact with 196 American citizens who are ready to depart, and arrangements are being made for them to do so either via air or over ground, and another 243 American citizens have been contacted and are not ready to depart, either because they want to stay in Afghanistan or are not ready.”

Between Thursday and Kahl’s testimony on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department found another 20 American citizens in Afghanistan who wanted to leave, and the department’s count of American citizens in the country who either do not want to leave or are not ready to leave jumped from 187 to 243 — an increase of 56 people.

Note that this is only a discussion of U.S. citizens and does not include legal permanent residents.

There’s a good reason State isn’t talking about LPRs, people who hold American passports — because to add them into the mix would confirm that Biden abandoned thousands of Americans to the Taliban. Thus far the Biden administration has been fortunate that none of these Americans have ended up as explicit hostages, but that good luck won’t last forever. When the money crunch gets severe enough, the Taliban will seize whatever Americans they can find and force Biden to cough up cash to let them out of the country. They have actively searched for Americans ever since Biden’s retreat, plainly to gain that hostaging leverage at some point.

At this rate, though, we might not have much to trade. Sticking around in Afghanistan cost us around $7 billion a year in the last decade or so to keep the Taliban out of power. How much longer at this rate will we have transferred that much to help the Taliban stay in power?

Update: AJ Kaufman’s keeping track too:

Since the catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan and ultimate withdrawal 60 days ago, 580 American citizens and legal permanent residents have departed the country.

When you add up the Americans who managed to depart and those still in the country hoping to leave, the administration’s estimates were at most 20% of the original total.

Families of American hostages being held are impatient and have begun questioning the Biden team’s actual commitment to bringing people home.

Be sure to read it all.