After handing the Taliban US-supplied military hardware on a silver platter thanks to the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, the Biden administration scrambled to deprive the terrorist organization of funding – freezing Afghan government reserves held in US bank accounts, and blocking the Taliban from accessing billions of dollars held in US institutions, according to the Washington Post, citing two people familiar with the matter.
The decision was made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and officials in Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the people said. The State Department was also involved in discussions this weekend, with officials in the White House monitoring the developments. An administration official said in a statement, “Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban.” The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss government policy not yet made public.
As of April, the Afghan central bank held $9.4 billion reserve assets according to the International Monetary Fund – roughly one third of the country’s annual economic output. The vast majority are held outside of the country, according to the Post, billions of which are in the United States.
According to the report, the freeze took effect on Sunday. As the situation was rapidly deteriorating over the weekend, Afghani Central Bank governor Ajmal Ahmady tweeted that they were told they wouldn’t receive any more dollar shipments.
As the Post notes, Afghanistan is already one of the poorest countries in the world, and has been highly dependent on US assistance. What’s more, the Biden administration will also likely face difficult decisions over how to manage existing sanctions on the Taliban – while dealing with trying to deliver humanitarian aid to a population in dire need.
According to Adam M. Smith, who served on the National Security Council and as senior adviser to the director of the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control during the Obama administration, the Biden administration didn’t need any new authority to freeze the reserves because the Taliban is already sanctioned under an executive order approved following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Meanwhile, the US sends roughly $3 billion per year in support for the Afghan military, which can only be sent if the Secretary of Defense “certifies to Congress that the Afghan forces are controlled by a civilian, representative government that is committed to protecting human rights and women’s right.”
This funding is expected to stop flowing as well, along with smaller pots of money, such as $20 million for recruiting women to the AfghanNational Security Forces. About 80 percent of Afghanistan’s budget is funded by the U.S. and other international donors, John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told Reuters this spring. A spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget declined to comment on the status of Congressionally-approved funding for Afghanistan.
“Of course, it’s dangerous,” said Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, a consulting firm, about restrictions on the Afghan economy, including the freezing of funds held in the U.S. “You’ll see a lot more refugees on the back of this, a lot more radicalism on the back of this. But, on the other hand, Afghanistan will not be able to control this country for a very long period of time. I can’t see us spending money on the Taliban.” -WaPo
According to the UN Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, half of the country’s total population has required humanitarian assistance this year, nearly double that from 2020, and a six-fold increase from four years ago.
Maybe China will kick in a few billion bucks to their new besties?
Republished from ZH, used here with permission.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.