Qatar foreign minister fears Afghan funds released to Taliban could go to terrorists

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said frozen assets should go to Afghan people

Qatar's Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said work was under way to convince the Taliban 'not to undo' the progress made in Afghanistan in the past two decades. EPA
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Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, has voiced concerns that the release of funds to the Taliban could result in the money ending up in the hands of terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

Sheikh Mohammed said work was under way to convince the Taliban “not to undo” the progress made in Afghanistan in the two decades since they were last in power. Asked if there were any assurances that funds would not be "diverted in part to terrorism".

“This is a legitimate question that we are always questioning, to make sure that even if they will have access to the funds, the current government, that there’s a transparent process that we know that the funds are going to the deserved people," he said. "This question – none of us until now could find an answer and that’s why everything is still on hold and nothing happened yet.

"It’s very important to keep engaging with the Taliban, to correct the course, to make sure that there’s an inclusivity in Afghanistan, to make sure that they are running in a government system and they’re not running as a militant group."

Afghanistan is in a dire humanitarian situation and financial crisis. Since seizing power last summer from the western-backed government, the Taliban have sought to unfreeze billions of dollars in assets abroad, have sanctions lifted and obtain international recognition.

But that has proved to be an uphill task, especially given widespread fears over the Taliban’s treatment of women and minorities.

“On the Taliban, we want the frozen financial assets to go to the Afghan people,” the Qatari minister told the London think tank.

“We are working closely with Europe and the US. We don't want the Afghan people suffer just because the Taliban are disliked internationally.”

The Taliban’s foreign affairs chief Amir Khan Muttaqi was recently in Doha in a bid to convince governments to unlock humanitarian aid.

Taliban officials also met representatives of aid groups in Geneva last week in an attempt to secure help.

The UN says that half of Afghanistan's 38 million people face food shortages.

US President Joe Biden recently moved to free up $3.5 billion in Afghan assets for families of 9/11 victims.

Mr Biden also put another $3.5bn in Afghan assets for humanitarian aid into a trust fund managed by the UN to provide aid to the Afghan people, bypassing the Taliban.

The Taliban described the move as “unjustified” and said it would “be forced to reconsider its policy” towards the US if the decision was not reversed.

“The 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Afghans,” the Taliban said.

Updated: February 18, 2022, 12:49 PM