WASHINGTON — Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus issued the following statement on the Biden administration’s executive order to break up and redistribute Afghanistan’s frozen Central Bank funds. 

“For months, progressives in Congress, the United Nations Secretary General, and leading aid groups have been urging the Biden administration to release Afghanistan’s frozen reserves and assets in order to avert humanitarian disaster. Rather than heeding those calls, the administration has taken a path that raises grave concerns about the possible impact on the ability of the Afghan people to get the food they need to prevent starvation. 

“Any functioning country must have access to its own currency and reserves. By removing and breaking up Afghanistan’s already frozen funds, the United States is continuing to contribute to a crumbling economy and devastating impacts on the Afghan people. Already, schools and hospitals cannot buy food for patients or gas to heat their buildings. Reporting from the ground shows that ‘incomes have vanished and life-threatening hunger has become widespread.’ Aid organizations have warned that U.S. policy could result in the death of more people than in 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

“While we agree on the need for robust humanitarian aid, it cannot substitute for a functioning central bank that stabilizes the currency, pays the salaries of civil servants, and provides reserves for private businesses that can prop up an ailing economy. It is also unclear how much of that aid would actually be able to reach people in need, when the country’s financial system is impeded by a web of sanctions. 

“Most importantly, frozen assets belonging to the Afghan people should be released and used to restore the country's economy. The best way for the Biden administration to ameliorate the suffering of the Afghan people is to ease sanctions, work with international partners at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to release much-needed aid into the country, and to release the United States’ own freeze on Afghanistan’s funds — in addition to reversing course on this new order.

“The families of victims of 9/11 absolutely deserve compensation, but this is not the way to do it. President Biden has repeatedly promised that ‘human rights will be at the center of our foreign policy.’ We believe that he wants to keep that commitment — and that is why we urge him to reconsider this decision before it’s too late.”