US advice to banks: OK to transfer aid money to Afghanistan

A displaced Afghan woman holds her child as she waits with other women to receive aid outside a UNHCR distribution center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan October 28, 2021. REUTERS /Zohra Bensemra

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NEW YORK, Feb 2 (Reuters) – International banks can transfer money to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes, and aid groups are allowed to pay teachers and health care workers in public institutions without fear of violating Taliban sanctions, the United States said on Wednesday.

The US Treasury Department offered advice on the sanctions waivers issued in September and December for humanitarian work in Afghanistan, where the United Nations says that more than half of the country’s 39 million people are suffering from extreme hunger and that the economy, education and social services are threatened with collapse.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned last week that Afghanistan was “hanging by a thread”.

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The Taliban, long blacklisted by the United States as a terrorist group, seized power from the internationally-backed Afghan government in August. Billions of dollars in Afghan central bank reserves and international development aid have been frozen to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Taliban.

International banks are wary of Afghanistan, and the United Nations and aid groups are struggling to get enough money into the country to fund operations.

The U.S. Treasury said banks can process transactions related to humanitarian operations “including clearing, settlement, and transfers through, to, or involving private and public Afghan depository institutions.”

He also described authorized transactions involving the Taliban, which includes the also blacklisted Haqqani network. These include signing agreements to provide direct aid to the Afghan people, overall aid coordination, including administration of imports, and office sharing.

“The payment of taxes, fees or import duties to, or the purchase or receipt of permits, licenses or public utilities from” the Taliban, the Haqqani Network or any entity over which they hold more 50% is allowed for humanitarian operations, says the Treasury.

He also said aid groups are allowed to send money to Afghanistan for humanitarian operations and can make direct payments to health care workers and teachers in public hospitals and schools.

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Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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