World Bank is working to free up $500M in Afghanistan aid: Report

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But the plan to redirect money from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund has been fraught with complications, including evading US sanctions.

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The World Bank is finalizing a proposal to provide up to $500m to humanitarian agencies from a frozen Afghanistan aid fund, people familiar with the plans told Reuters news agency, but that leaves out thousands of public sector workers and the United States. America is complicated. Sanctions

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Board members will meet informally on Tuesday to discuss proposals with US and UN officials in recent weeks to redirect funds from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which totals $1.5 billion.

Afghanistan’s 39 million people are facing a crippling economy, a winter of food shortages and rising poverty three months after the Taliban seized power as the last US troops withdrew from a 20-year war.

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Sources said Afghan experts said aid would help, but major gaps remain, including how to get money into Afghanistan without exposing the financial institutions involved in US sanctions, and a lack of focus on state workers. is included.

The money will mainly go to meet urgent health care needs in Afghanistan, where less than seven percent of the population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, he said.

For now, it will not cover the salaries of teachers and other government employees, a policy that experts say could accelerate the collapse of Afghanistan’s public education, health care and social service systems. He has warned that hundreds of thousands of workers, who have not been paid for months, could stop showing up for their jobs and join the mass exodus from the country.

Once they are relocated to Afghanistan, there will be no World Bank oversight, said one of the sources familiar with the plans.

A group of women wearing burqas or full body veils cross the street as members of the Taliban drive past in Kabul, Afghanistan [File: Jorge Silva/Reuters]

“The proposal calls for the World Bank to transfer money to the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies without any oversight or reporting, but it does not say anything about the financial sector or how the money will get into the country,” the source said. Is.” US sanctions were a major obstacle.

‘No silver bullet’

While the US Treasury Department has provided “letters of comfort” assuring banks that they can process human transactions, concerns about sanctions continue to block the passage of basic supplies, including food and medicine, the source said. .

“It is a scorched-earth approach. We are grinding the country to dust,” the source said. Severe restrictions and a failure to take care of public sector workers “will create more refugees, more desperation and more extremism”.

Any decision to redirect ARTF money requires the approval of all of its donors, of which the US has been the largest.

A US State Department spokesperson confirmed that Washington is working with the World Bank and other donors on how to use the money, which could potentially include paying those working in “critical positions such as healthcare workers and teachers”. Is.

A police officer cleaning shoes in Kabul, Afghanistan [File: Ali Khara/Reuters]

The spokesman said the US government remains committed to meeting the vital needs of the Afghan people, “particularly in the health, nutrition, education and food security sectors … but international aid is not a silver bullet.”

bypassing the Taliban

Established in 2002 and administered by the World Bank, the ARTF was the largest funding source for Afghanistan’s civilian budget, with over 70 percent funded by foreign aid.

The World Bank suspended disbursements after the Taliban takeover. At the same time, Washington cut off US dollar supplies to the country and joined in freezing some $9bn in Afghan central bank assets and halting financial aid.

A World Bank spokesperson confirmed that staff and executive board members are exploring redirecting ARTF funds to UN agencies “to support humanitarian efforts”, but gave no further details. The UN declined to comment.

One of the sources said that preliminary work has also been done on a possible swap of US dollars to bring funds to the country for Afghans, but those plans are “basically just a few PowerPoint slides at this point”. Two sources said the approach would deposit ARTF funds into the international accounts of Afghan private institutions, which would distribute Afghans from their Afghan bank accounts to humanitarian groups in Afghanistan.

It would sideline the Taliban, thereby avoiding engaging with US and UN sanctions, but the plan is complex and untested, and could take time to implement.

A third source said a major problem is the lack of mechanisms to monitor the distribution of funds in Afghanistan to ensure that Taliban leaders and fighters do not reach them.

Two former US officials familiar with the internal administration’s deliberations said some US officials argue that US and UN sanctions on Taliban leaders bar financial aid to anyone associated with their government.

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