• Top economists are urging the Biden administration to give Afghanistan its frozen funds back.
  • The US is holding $7 billion from the country's central bank that was frozen after the Taliban re-took power. 
  • Many have pressed Biden to release the money to help the country navigate its humanitarian woes.

Dozens of economists, including some leading figures, are urging the Biden administration to release Afghanistan's $7 billion in frozen reserve funds — held by the US at a bank in New York for nearly a year — to the country's leadership, now the Taliban.

In a letter sent to President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday, over 70 economists and experts argued that Afghanistan's central bank needs the funds, which were frozen after the Taliban again took power in August 2021, to help the struggling country overcome severe economic and humanitarian woes. 

The economists wrote in the letter that the Biden administration needs to take "immediate action," stressing that "the full $7 billion belong to the Afghan people." Without the funds, they said, Afghanistan's central bank cannot function and the population will continue to feel that burden. 

"The Taliban government has done horrific things, including but not limited to its appalling treatment of women and girls, and ethnic minorities," the writers said. "However, it is both morally condemnable and politically and economically reckless to impose collective punishment on an entire people for the actions of a government they did not choose."

After the Taliban defeated the Afghan armed forces, toppled the US-backed government, and seized power in Afghanistan last year, the Biden administration froze the $7 billion in reserves that the country's central bank had sitting in the US so that the militant group would be unable to access the significant sum and either take it for themselves or fund undesirable activities in the area. Another roughly $2 billion in frozen funds are being held by other countries.

In nearly a year of Taliban leadership, the country has sunk into a devastating economic and humanitarian catastrophe, making the central bank's frozen funds even more critical as a potential escape for the Afghan people.

"The people of Afghanistan have been made to suffer doubly for a government they did not choose," the economists wrote in their letter to the president and treasury secretary.

Biden signed an executive order in February to facilitate the release of $3.5 billion to help the country navigate economic and humanitarian strain, but the move triggered criticism and calls from lawmakers for the president to return the full $7 billion to Afghanistan's central bank.

Read the original article on Business Insider