WASHINGTON: Three general licences issued by the US Treasury this week allow US government officials and international agencies to conduct “official business” with the Taliban and Haqqani Network.

An official statement issued by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) explains how this “official business” can be conducted.

“General Licence 17 authorises all transactions and activities involving the Taliban or the Haqqani Network that are for the conduct of the official business of the US government by employees, grantees, or contractors thereof, subject to certain conditions.

“General Licence 18 authorises all transactions and activities involving the Taliban or the Haqqani Network that are for the conduct of the official business of certain international organisations and other international entities by employees, grantees, or contractors thereof, subject to certain conditions.

“General Licence 19 authorises all transactions and activities involving the Taliban or the Haqqani Network that are ordinarily incidental and necessary to the following activities by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), subject to certain conditions.”

The conditions are explained as aiding “humanitarian projects to meet basic human needs; activities to support rule of law, citizen participation, government accountability and transparency”.

Organisations dealing with “human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to information, and civil society development projects” are also allowed to receive aid from US and other sources.

The exemption also applies to “education; non-commercial development projects directly benefiting the Afghan people; and environmental and natural resource protection”.

Earlier this week, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to ease the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

The resolution allowed “payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities”.

Later, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reminded journalists at a briefing that it was the United States that had drafted the resolution. She pointed that the resolution had its own mechanism to filter the pledged aid as it “requests periodic updates by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to ensure assistance is reaching the intended beneficiaries”.

After the Aug 15 Taliban takeover, the international community froze Afghanistan’s assets to ensure that the Taliban did not access the funds, which brought the Afghan economy close to a collapse. The UN resolution and the exemptions intend to prevent the possible collapse.

The United States froze nearly $9.5bn of Afghan assets in August but it’s not clear if the exemptions would ultimately lead to the release of these frozen assets as well.

Republican lawmakers, however, have warned that the move risks legitimising funding the Taliban leaders as they would be the ultimate beneficiary.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2021

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