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World Bank proposal would shift $600 million from Afghan trust

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(Last Updated On: February 19, 2022)

The World Bank’s management has signed off on a proposal that would repurpose $600 million of the just over $1 billion left in a frozen trust fund to benefit Afghan education, families and communities, a source familiar with the plan told Reuters.

The board of the World Bank is due to discuss the proposal on March 1, with a final decision on disbursement of the funds left up to the donors of Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which is administered by the bank, the source said.

The funds would be disbursed by various United Nations agencies, including UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization, amid escalating concerns about the collapsing Afghan economy, the source told Reuters.

Donors to the trust fund in December approved the transfer of $280 million from the trust to the World Food Program and UNICEF to support nutrition and health in Afghanistan.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the U.N. Security Council last month to free up the remaining $1.2 billion in the fund to help Afghanistan’s people survive the winter.

The fresh funds will help support food security, health and education programs in Afghanistan as it sinks into a severe economic and humanitarian crisis. The crisis accelerated in August when the former government collapsed and the last U.S. and allied troops withdrew.

The United States and other donors cut off the financial aid that had kept Afghanistan running during 20 years of war after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) takeover.

The United Nations is warning that nearly 23 million people – about 55% of the population – are facing extreme levels of hunger, with nearly 9 million at risk of famine as winter takes hold in the impoverished country.

The United States last week announced plans to free up half of the $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets on U.S. soil to help the Afghan people while holding the rest to possibly satisfy terrorism-related lawsuits against the IEA, the White House said on Friday.

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Biden unlikely to release frozen Afghan assets anytime soon

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(Last Updated On: August 16, 2022)

The Biden administration does not plan to release billions of dollars of Afghan government assets held by the country’s central bank anytime soon, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, Tom West said Monday.

Citing concerns the funds could end up in the hands of terrorists after the leader of al-Qaeda was killed while hiding out in Kabul, West said: “We do not see recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a near-term option.”

He said “the Taliban’s (IEA) sheltering of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups.”

CNN reported that a National Security Council spokesperson said “there has been no change” in efforts to get the funds to the Afghan people, but cited Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul as having a direct impact on how the administration deals with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).

“We have been engaged with foreign counterparts in efforts to support the establishment of an international trust fund with robust safeguards to enable the use of Afghan reserves for the benefit of the Afghan people given Afghanistan’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis,” the NSC spokesperson said.

“We have made considerable progress and our focus right now is on supporting the establishment of this fund. The recent revelations of the Taliban’s (IEA) flagrant violation of the Doha agreement illustrate the importance of remaining clear-eyed in our dealings with the Taliban. Our approach to the future of these assets will continue to reflect that reality.”

This decision not to move on the releasing of the funds anytime soon comes about six months after US President Joe Biden signed an executive order allowing for the $7 billion in frozen assets from Afghanistan’s central bank to eventually be distributed inside the country and to potentially fund litigation brought by families of victims of the September 11 terror attacks.

The funds were frozen by the US government after the Afghan government collapsed last year and the IEA took over control of the country.

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IEA trade delegation heads to Moscow

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

A delegation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) led by the acting minister of industry and commerce left Kabul Sunday for Moscow to purchase essential commodities including fuel.

“We will try to sign agreements for the purchase of basic commodities including wheat, sunflower cooking oil (as they have big factories for it) and also fuel including diesel, petrol and LPG gas,” Nooruddin Azizi, the acting minister of industry and commerce, said before his departure. “We are in talks with their major companies.”

Azizi said that during the visit they will met with the ministries of agriculture, energy and commerce.

“We hope we will have a great achievement which will be in the interest of the Afghan people,” he said.

Food and fuel prices have gone up significantly in recent months in Afghanistan, the economy of which has been isolated following last August’s political change.

“The industry and commerce minister’s trip to Moscow under existing circumstances holds special significance. We should engage with all countries to boost trade and seize the opportunities,” said Sakhi Ahmad Paiman, deputy head of the Chamber of Industries and Mines.

Mirwais Haji Zada, deputy head of the Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock, said that there is an opportunity to increase trade with Russia.

He said that Afghanistan can also increase pomegranate and dried fruits exports to Russia.

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MTN receives $35 million offer for Afghanistan operation

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

South Africa’s MTN Group has received a binding offer for 100% of its shares in MTN Afghanistan for a consideration of approximately $35 million, the company has confirmed.

The identity of the buyer was not disclosed but the operator expects the transaction to be concluded within roughly six months, South African media reports indicated.

The sale will mark the completion of the group’s planned exit from its consolidated Middle East and Central Asia markets following the sale of its business in Yemen and the loss of its Syrian operations last year.

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