Since its retreat from Afghanistan in 2020, the U.S. has sought to continue providing humanitarian aid to the country’s citizens, who need it more desperately than ever. Dovid Efune and Benny Avni report that much of the money appears to be going into the Taliban’s coffers:
Last year the Taliban-controlled central bank, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, began posting on its Twitter account photos of pallets of an estimated $40 million in small-denomination Federal Reserve notes. They were packed in casings and sat at the Kabul airport’s tarmac. In the tweet, the bank thanked those who have sent the cash, meant to “help the needy.”
The photographed delivery was part of an infusion of cash arriving monthly at the airport last year. . . . A new delivery was expected this week. The Biden administration has “stonewalled” inquiries about $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid that has been spent “to support the Afghan people since the Taliban’s takeover,” the American special inspector-general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, wrote in a recent report.
The son of the martyred sheikh Ahmad Shah Massoud—known as the Lion of Panjshir—a longtime American ally, Ahmad Massoud believes that cash deliveries to the Kabul airport come from America, and that they supply his enemies with “a lifeline.” Without them, “the Taliban will not survive,” Mr. Massoud says.
Separately, the United Nations humanitarian operation in Afghanistan is financed with money from the UN’s annual budget, nearly a quarter of which is funded by America. The UN sends cash to Afghanistan because the country’s central bank has been cut off from the international system. Hard-to-trace cash deliveries meant for various UN agencies and “partners,” however, go to Taliban-controlled banks, making it easy to finance Taliban pet projects and favored allies.