Is Biden right giving $3.5B in frozen Afghan assets to 9/11 victims?

Justin Lane / Reuters

Fact Box

  • On February 11, 2022, President Biden signed an executive order that announced how $3.5 billion of the frozen funds reserved for supporting Afghani citizens with humanitarian aid would be used as payment to families suing the Taliban for September 11 attacks. 
  • The money was being kept by the Afghanistan government in the US prior to the Taliban’s move to control the country in August. The frozen assets have recently “faced pressure to find a way to release the money without recognizing the new administration.”
  • In 2010, around 150 family members of 9/11 victims sued the Taliban and al-Qaeda for their “role in facilitating and planning the attack.” Other victims’ relatives are involved in continuous lawsuits, requesting “equal footing for the fund.”
  • After the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan, they “insisted” the airlift had to end by August 31, 2021. President Biden kept to that deadline and said the US “will assist Afghan forces, diplomatic, and humanitarian work in the country” after the removal of troops. 
  • On April 15, 2021, Biden announced he would withdraw the remaining US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. 
  • The 9/11 terrorist attacks killed 2,977 people from 93 nations: 2,753 people were killed in New York; 184 people were killed at the Pentagon, and 40 people were killed on Flight 93.

Siam (Yes)

Recently, the new Taliban government has been requesting the release of the Afghan assets since the country is in an economic collapse. But President Joe Biden just signed an order to free the $7 billion, equally splitting between the Sept 11 victims and the poverty-stricken Afghanistan government. And President Biden has done the right thing for several reasons.

First, it is important to understand the majority of the $7 billion that the Afghan government claims is not theirs; it has come from donations, with the US being the major donor of this money. For the past 20 years, Afghanistan has had no industry to build its economy. In addition, the Sept 11 victims have been fighting for over two decades for financial compensation. To date, the majority have not received anything for all the loved ones who were killed. The families of 9/11 victims renewed their efforts for compensation as soon as the Afghani assets in the US were frozen last year. And US courts have stated the survivors have a legal claim to this money.

The Taliban's claim of the financial assets that once belonged to the government they overthrew is not justified. The Taliban themselves say the humanitarian disaster of their country justifies taking money the international community has provided to create a very different Afghanistan government—one that is claimed to protect women's and girl's rights. However, contradictorily, the present Taliban government is hell-bent on suppressing women's rights and lethally suppressing people who resists.

Ethan (No)

Just as Americans have suffered through the war in Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan have suffered the consequences of actions they have not condoned or controlled. In fact, most of the 9/11 terrorists actually came from Saudi Arabia—therefore, it is not right to link this new generation of suffering and vulnerable Afghani citizens to the 9/11 attacks. As US children are growing up in a world full of airport restrictions and other changes resulting from 9/11, those who were children in Afghanistan during 9/11 had suffered the consequences of having a war rage in their country for most of their lives. 

In addition, the war has left the country facing an economic collapse that will leave 22.8 million people facing food insecurity. These people deserve all $7 billion to help them begin anew. This was the longest war in US history, lasting nearly 20 years, and in that time, the US only managed to occupy Afghanistan, exasperating the country. The US has the opportunity to financially support the Afghani people while keeping these funds out of the hands of the Taliban, who have laid claim to it. The money could help them rid their country of the Taliban or simply improve their quality of life. Although the money was left in a US bank, its rightful owners are the people of Afghanistan now that their political leaders have fled. They should possess the money, and giving them the money that's rightfully theirs could bring a peaceful and just end to the war.

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