The ramifications of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last August are still playing out, and some of the Biden administration’s decisions in the affair have deeply affected some Americans.
Particularly, the administration’s decision concerning $7 billion in Afghan central bank reserves has rocked 9/11 families and stirred up controversy, the Washington Eaxminer reported.
When the U.S. troops left Afghanistan last year, the Taliban took over the country, leading to the collapse of the country and its economy.
However, the U.S. seized $7 billion in American-based assets owned by Afghanistan’s central bank — known as Da Afghanistan Bank or DAB — so that the Taliban could not access it, Politico reported.
The executive order outlined that the administration would “seek to facilitate access to $3.5 billion of those assets for the benefit of the Afghan people and for Afghanistan’s future pending a judicial decision.”
But the other half of the money could possibly go to 9/11 victims’ families.
“Many U.S. victims of terrorism, including relatives of victims who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, have brought claims against the Taliban and are pursuing DAB assets in federal court. Because some of these plaintiffs currently have writs of execution against the DAB assets, the court will need to issue a further decision regarding the scope of those writs,” the executive order read. “Even if funds are transferred for the benefit of the Afghan people, more than $3.5 billion in DAB assets would remain in the United States and are subject to ongoing litigation by U.S. victims of terrorism. Plaintiffs will have a full opportunity to have their claims heard in court.”
This decision has sparked controversy among the 9/11 families community, as many disagree over the money.
Some family members of victims want the money, but others have urged the Biden administration to release the funds to the Afghan people, whose money it was in the first place.
“A year ago, the community was sort of at peace. And we had no idea about this money, and things were better off. And there wasn’t this infighting and all these issues,” 9/11 Justice founder Brett Eagleson told the Washington Examiner.
Much of it comes down to the legal divide among 9/11 families.
There are thousands of Americans involved in lawsuits seeking compensation for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Many of the lawsuits focus on Saudi Arabia and Iran as the main perpetrators of the attacks. But there is a small group of 9/11 families known as the Havlish plaintiffs that won a default judgment against the Taliban in 2011, the Examiner reported.
Yet another group of 9/11 families, known as the Ashton plaintiffs, is specifcally trying to claim a stake in the Afghan central bank reserves.
Eagleson, whose father died in the Word Trade Center’s South Tower, is part of the Ashton plaintiffs. He said he now suspects that there is a “dirty inside deal with the administration” concerning the money and the legal disputes surrounding those who have been victims of Taliban terrorism, he told the Examiner.
“So no one has seen that money yet,” said Eagleson. “And it’s our presumption that nobody will probably see that money for at least a couple of years, if we even are allowed to see any of that money.”
Eagleson has also complained that the Biden administration’s decision to dole out the money via the court system is an error and disservice to the 9/11 families.
“What the Biden administration did was really a disservice to the 9/11 community because they never specified how that money is to be allocated,” Eagleson told the Washington Examiner. “They left it up to the courts to figure out what to do with it.”
There are many other 9/11 families, however, that are angry over the idea of $3.5 billion of American-based Afghan assets not going back to the Afghan people.
In a letter addressed to President Joe Biden on Aug. 16, about 80 family members of 9/11 victims requested that Biden reverse his February executive order and send the billions in frozen assets back to the Afghan people.
“Any use of the $7 billion to pay off 9/11 family member judgments is legally suspect and morally wrong. We call on you to modify your Executive Order and affirm that the Afghanistan central bank funds belong to the Afghan people and the Afghan people alone,” the letter read.
The letter also addressed that the Afghan people, whose country and economy have completely collapsed, simply need the money more than anyone in the U.S.
“Ninety-five percent of Afghans are impoverished, and nearly nine million are at risk of starvation. Affirming that these funds belong to the Afghan people will not solve Afghanistan’s problems; figuring out how to transfer the money directly to the Afghan people is a formidable task,” the letter read. “But the point is: this money is theirs, not ours. Simply put, this money belongs to the Afghan people, not 9/11 family members – and they need it more.”
Phyllis Rodriguez, a member of the group 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, lost her son in the North Tower. But she said 9/11 families are not entitled to the Afghan funds.
“That money should not go to 9/11 families,” she told The Examiner. “This is a total misunderstanding of what these funds are. … This money belongs to the Afghan people. Without this money, there’s no liquidity in Afghanistan. So there’s a real economic and humanitarian crisis going on. Restoring this money to the bank would help a lot,” Rodriguez said.
But aside from varying views on whether the money should go back to the Afghan people, many are upset at how Biden’s executive order, which kicked off all of this in the first place, has served as a major division in the 9/11 families community.
“I think this is a nightmare scenario for the entire 9/11 community because you’re pitting victims against victims and you’re making us fight like dogs over a piece of meat,” Eagleson said. “And I just think it’s terrible that the Biden administration put us in this situation without clarifying or without making a commitment to fairness and equity.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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