Afghan embassy, consulates in US shut their doors

Published March 27, 2022
An Afghan flag flutters outside the Afghan embassy in Washington, US on August 15, 2021. — Reuters
An Afghan flag flutters outside the Afghan embassy in Washington, US on August 15, 2021. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: The Afghan embassy and their consulates in the United States have ceased operations and transferred custodial responsibility of their properties to the US State Department.

Afghan diplomatic missions in the United States faced serious financial issues after the US government froze Afghan assets in the US banking system. The sanctions caused many diplomats and staff members to go unpaid for months.

Earlier this month, the State Department announced that the embassy would be closed, and diplomats would have 30 days to apply for residency or humanitarian parole, as one-fourth of the 100 diplomatic staff in the United States had not applied till then.

Sanctions imposed after Taliban takeover caused many diplomats, staffers to go unpaid for months

Last week, the Afghan embassy sent a letter to the State Department, saying that from March 16, 2022, the embassy and Afghanistan’s consulates in the United States had ceased operations and transferred custodial responsibility of their properties to the State Department.

The letter pointed out that even after the Taliban’s “forceful and illegitimate takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021,” the Afghan embassy in Washington and consulates in New York and Los Angeles “remained committed to serving the Afghan people” by continuing operations and providing consular services.

During this period, the Afghan embassy and the consulates faced growing operational challenges and severe resource constraints due to freezing of its bank accounts, and the diplomatic missions sought assistance from the State Department, the letter added.

The letter pointed out that the State Department suggested transferring custodial responsibility of the embassy and the consulates to the US government in accordance with the Vienna Convention as the only viable option.

“Given that the operation of the diplomatic missions is not sustainable, the embassy and the consulates have concurred with the State Department’s suggestions. However, the Afghan embassy and consulates in the US hope that a practical solution will be found promptly, especially given the absence of essential consular services for Afghan citizens in the United States,” the letter explained.

The letter recalled that together, Afghans and Americans made numerous achievements in human rights, women’s empowerment and democracy in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately, these achievements are now threatened by the imposition of a totalitarian theocracy on our people by a terrorist group,” the letter claimed.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2022

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