Taliban calls on US to lift economic, travel sanctions


The Taliban-run Afghanistan administration said on Monday it had met US Special Representative Tom West in Qatar and discussed the lifting of travel and other restrictions on Taliban leaders and the return of Afghan central bank assets parked abroad.

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021 after foreign forces ended a 20-year presence in the country. But the government formed by the Islamist movement, which it calls the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), is yet to be recognized by any country and faces travel and financial sanctions.

“IEA reiterated that it was crucial for confidence-building that blacklists & reward lists be removed, & bank reserves be unfrozen so that Afghans can establish an economy unreliant on foreign aid,” Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Qahar Balkhi said in an English-language statement.

Balkhi said an IEA delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Muttaqi, including officials of Afghanistan’s central bank and ministry of finance, met West and a 15-strong US delegation from various departments over two days in Doha.

A Taliban soldier checks a man at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 6, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/ALI KHARA)

The plight of Afghan banks

There was no immediate US comment on the talks.

Most Taliban leaders require permission from the United Nations to travel outside Afghanistan, and the country’s banking sector has been crippled by financial sanctions.

About $7 billion in Afghan central bank funds were frozen in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in August 2021 after the Taliban took control of the country after a 20-year insurgency. Half of those funds are now with a Swiss-based Afghan Fund.

A recent US-funded audit of the Afghan central bank has failed to win Washington’s backing for a return of bank assets from the Swiss-based trust fund.

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