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SIGAR finds Ghani and his advisors fled the country with less than $1 million

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(Last Updated On: June 8, 2022)

Washington’s oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction has found that allegations of theft of millions of dollars of cash by former president Ashraf Ghani and his senior advisors, at the time of their hurried departure, are likely untrue.

In the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) interim report on the theft of funds, which was published on Tuesday, the investigative team found that while some cash was taken from the grounds of the palace and loaded onto helicopters, that carried Ghani, his wife Rula, and senior staff members to Uzbekistan, evidence indicates that the amount of cash on board did not exceed $1 million and may have been closer in value to $500,000.

SIGAR also identified suspicious circumstances in which approximately $5 million in cash was allegedly left behind at the presidential palace. “The origins and purpose of this money are disputed, but it was supposedly divided by members of the Presidential Protective Service” after the helicopters departed but before the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) captured the palace. 

SIGAR examined other examples of alleged theft by senior Afghan officials as the government collapsed, including tens of millions of dollars from the operating budget of the National Directorate of Security.

Although there appears to have been ample opportunity and effort to plunder Afghan government coffers, “at this time SIGAR does not have sufficient evidence to determine with certainty whether hundreds of millions of dollars were removed from the country by Afghan officials as the government collapsed or whether any stolen money was provided by the United States,” the report read.

According to SIGAR, this is an interim report, as they are still waiting for responses to questions sent to Ghani.

“If forthcoming, those answers will be incorporated into a final report,” SIGAR stated.

Following the collapse of the former Afghan government, allegations were made that Ghani and his senior advisors fled Afghanistan with millions of dollars in cash loaded onto the helicopters that carried them from the presidential palace to Termez, Uzbekistan, on the afternoon of August 15, 2021.

“The hurried nature of their departure, the emphasis on passengers over cargo, the payload and performance limitations of the helicopters, and the consistent alignment in detailed accounts from witnesses on the ground and in the air all suggest that there was little more than $500,000 in cash on board the helicopters,” read the report. 

“That being said, it is likely that significant amounts of U.S. currency disappeared from Afghan government property in the chaos of the Taliban (IEA) takeover –  including $5million taken from the presidential palace and tens of millions taken from the vault at the National Directorate of Security,” SIGAR stated.

“Attempts to loot other government funds appear to have been common. Yet with Afghan government records and surveillance videos from those final days likely in Taliban (IEA) hands, SIGAR is currently unable to determine how much money was ultimately stolen, and by whom,” the report stated.

The Russian embassy in Kabul asserted in late August that there was $169 million on board the helicopters, and two days later the Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, Zahir Aghbar, echoed these claims in a press conference.

Aghbar also vowed to file a request with Interpol to arrest Ghani. However, Aghbar declined to sit for an interview with SIGAR or provide any evidence substantiating this claim.

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PACF hands over 25 tons of food items to support Afghans

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

The Pak Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) on Thursday handed over 25 tons of food items to Afghan authorities as part of its ongoing support to the people of war-hit Afghanistan.

The truckload of the food items, arranged by the PACF, were handed over to the Afghan authorities at the Chaman crossing, app reported.

The handing-over ceremony was attended by Deputy Commissioner of Chaman Hameed Zahri and senior officers of the Afghan Foreign Office including Maulwi Waheedullah and Mullah Hikmatullah.

According to the report since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), takeover in Afghanistan last year, Pakistan had sent over a total of 15,390 tons worth Rs2, 650 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The humanitarian assistance had been sent to Afghanistan via 83 convoys, including 743 trucks and four C-130 flights, till August 5, read the report.

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A group of 9/11 victims call for frozen funds to be given back to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

Families of 9/11 victims have called on US President Joe Biden to release billions of dollars belonging to Afghanistan.

In a letter sent to Biden this week, 77 family members of 9/11 victims called on the president to modify an executive order from February which froze the Afghan central bank’s $7 billion of assets being held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“Any use of the $7 billion to pay off 9/11 family member judgments is legally suspect and morally wrong,” the family members wrote in a letter first reported by Politico.

The letter came amid a report in the Wall Street Journal that the US had ruled out releasing the funds following the US killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul earlier this month.

The US froze the money after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) swept to power following the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The IEA and US had been engaged in talks about releasing the funds.

Biden planned to give $3.5 billion to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes and the balance to families of 9/11 victims.

But the revelation that the al-Qaeda leader was living in Kabul derailed talks between the US and the IEA on a compromise over the funds.

The 9/11 victims’ families said that, while they had filed lawsuits seeking justice for their loss, they didn’t intend for the compensation “to take money away from starving Afghans”.

“This money is theirs, not ours,” the letter said. “Simply put, this money belongs to the Afghan people, not 9/11 family members – and they need it more.”

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3,000 religious scholars, elders and officials attend IEA’s Kandahar meeting

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(Last Updated On: August 18, 2022)

About 3,000 religious scholars, government officials, ethnic elders and members of civil society attended a meeting in Kandahar on Thursday.

Among the key speakers was the supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

The media was however prevented from recording or filming Akhundzada’s speech.

Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, said at the meeting that the IEA wants good relations with the world, but that the foreign community should not expect relations to normalize immediately – not after 20 years of war.

Muttaqi said that while the IEA wants good relations with the international community, they expect the world to allow Afghans to live according to their beliefs and traditions.

He also said that they have made many achievements in building trade relations with countries in the region and currently the borders are open to Afghan traders who are now exporting their goods.

On the other hand, acting Minister of Vice and Virtue has said that the IEA has made countless sacrifices to end the occupation and establish an Islamic system in Afghanistan.

However, Afghans across the country are hoping that one of the outcomes of this meeting will be the decision to reopen schools for girls above Grade 6.

But it is not clear as to whether the subject was discussed at the meeting.

This is the second such meeting in as many months. The first one, two months ago, took place at the Loya Jirga Hall in Kabul.

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