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Taliban say policy towards US may change unless assets released

By Our Correspondent
February 16, 2022
Taliban say policy towards US may change unless assets released

KABUL/MAYMANA: The Taliban warned late Monday they would be forced to reconsider their policy towards the United States unless Washington releases the assets.

The Taliban, who said they wanted good relations with Washington after the US withdrawal in August, called the asset seizure "theft".

Thousands marched through Afghan cities on Tuesday to protest against President Joe Biden´s decision last week to seize almost half the country´s overseas assets -- about $3.5 billion -- as compensation for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks carried out by al-Qaeda that prompted the US-led invasion later that year.

"If someone wants compensation, it should be Afghans," said Mir Afghan Safi, the chairman of the country´s forex traders association, as he marched in Kabul. "Their two towers have been destroyed, but all our districts and all of our country have been destroyed."

Some in the crowd chanted "death to America", and "death to Joe Biden". "The 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Afghanistan," the group´s deputy spokesman said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Taliban on Tuesday declared February 15 a national holiday to mark the anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan -- six months after they stormed into Kabul to topple the US-backed government.

After invading on Christmas Eve in 1979, the Red Army pulled out a decade later having lost nearly 15,000 troops fighting Western-backed Mujahideen forces, precipitating a civil war that gave rise to the Taliban and their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

Forty years of conflict has left Afghanistan one of the world´s most impoverished nations, and the Taliban´s return on August 15 plunged the country deeper into a humanitarian crisis the United Nations says threatens more than half its 38 million population.

It is not clear what action the Taliban could take, but they have previously said they would allow thousands of Afghans who worked for the United States and other Western powers to leave the country for promised sanctuary abroad.

“The Soviet withdrawal was not an achievement but only the start of crises,” said exiled Afghan analyst Ahmad Saeedi. “Afghanistan is again at the brink of failure with challenges only increasing,” he told AFP. He said the Taliban had “lost a lot of time” in the six months since taking power. In the six months since taking back control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have erased all visible signs of the former government from the capital.