The Biden administration reportedly froze Afghan government reserves held in U.S. bank accounts Sunday, after the Taliban seized the capital city of Kabul this weekend, effectively toppling the country’s government.
The Washington Post reported that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and personnel at the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control decided to freeze the accounts, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The move effectively blocks the Taliban from accessing the billions of dollars that were being stored in U.S. institutions, the Post reported.
“Any Central Bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban,” an administration official told the newspaper in a statement.
The State Department was also reportedly part of conversations this weekend regarding the accounts, and White House officials were said to be watching the developments.
The Hill has reached out to the Treasury Department for more information.
The reported move by the administration is the first in what is expected to be a number of important decisions top officials will face as they grapple with the return of the Taliban, which took control of Afghanistan this weekend following a withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, and relies heavily on American aid that is now in question.
The Afghan central bank had $9.4 billion in reserve assets as of April, according to the International Monetary Fund, which the Post noted is equivalent to about a third of the country’s yearly economic output.
The majority of those reserves, however, are not kept in Afghanistan, a source told the Post. Billions of dollars are reportedly held in the U.S., but the exact amount is not known.
The Biden administration did not need new authority to freeze the reserves because the Taliban was already under sanctions from an executive order approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, former Obama administration official Adam Smith told the newspaper.
Smith served on the National Security Council and as a senior adviser to the director of the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control under the Obama administration.
The news comes after Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of the Taliban and a key leader of the group, arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday for the first time in more than 10 years.