WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday morning to fund humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and U.S. victims of terrorism, including survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, with $7 billion in frozen Afghan funds seized by the U.S.
The $7 billion laid out in Biden's order is money left in the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in New York by the former Afghan government. When the Taliban ousted Afghanistan's government and took political control of Afghanistan in August of 2021, the U.S. froze the funds that the Taliban has since claimed belongs to it.
But since the Taliban is a terrorist organization, Biden has directed the funds to be distributed to the Afghan people and relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks, many of whom have already laid claim to some of the funds.
The order directs U.S. financial institutions to make $3.5 billion available to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan sparked by the tumultuous end to the U.S. involvement in the country's two-decade war. Another $3.5 billion is planned to fund litigation by U.S. victims of terrorism.
In order for the funds to be distributed, according to the White House, courts in which victims' families have filed claims for compensation will have to issue decisions.
Another $2 billion in Afghan frozen reserves remain, held largely in Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.
The 20-year war in Afghanistan began after the Taliban refused to turn Osama din Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, over to the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Afghanistan's economy remains turbulent since the Taliban has taken power, with almost 80% of the country's former budget having come from international aid that has since been cut off. And even before the U.S. withdrawal of troops, Afghanistan's poverty rates were above 50%, with a two-year draught exacerbating devastatingly low income levels and high rates of malnutrition.
"This is one step forward in the United States’ effort to authorize the transfer of a significant portion of the funds to meet the needs of the Afghan people," the White House said in a statement.
The White House acknowledged the fallout of the 20-year war and collapse of the Afghan government requires more aid than the funds available in the frozen reserve.
"We understand there are no easy solutions for Afghanistan’s economic challenges, which have been exacerbated by the Taliban’s forced takeover of the country," the White House said.
Last month, the United Nations called for $5 billion in aid to Afghanistan, warning that up to 1 million Afghan children face starvation and nearly 90% of the country's population are attempting to survive below the poverty level.
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