IMF denies Taliban access to millions in Afghanistan funding

The International Monetary Fund says the Taliban, now in control of Afghanistan, will not be able to access nearly half a billion dollars in reserve funds, amid mounting pressure by the international community, including the U.S. Treasury Department.

This comes as a new allocation of assets, known as special drawing rights (SDRs), is scheduled to go out on August 23. An estimated $450 million of the $650 billion allocation was designated for Afghanistan. 

“As is always the case, the IMF is guided by the views of the international community. There is currently a lack of clarity within the international community regarding recognition of a government in Afghanistan, as a consequence of which the country cannot access SDRs or other IMF resources,” a spokesperson for the IMF said in a statement to CBS News.

The U.S. is the largest contributor to the IMF. A Treasury official said the department is taking steps to prevent the Taliban from accessing SDRs.

Taliban patrols Jalalabad city
Taliban check points are seen in the streets of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on August 18, 2021. Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On Tuesday, a group of 18 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, urging her to intervene to ensure SDRs are not made available to a Taliban-led Afghanistan.

“The potential of the SDR allocation to provide nearly half a billion dollars in unconditional liquidity to a regime with a history of supporting terrorist actions against the United States and her allies is extremely concerning,” the letter read. 

SDRs are assets based on five currencies. The assets are not currency, but members of the IMF may exchange them for usable currencies among themselves.

While the IMF moves to block Afghanistan from accessing reserve funds, the Taliban will also not have access to Central Bank assets the Afghan government has in the U.S., according to an administration official. 

Former Afghanistan Central Bank Governor Ajmal Ahmady, who fled the country when the Taliban seized control, tweeted that Afghanistan had about $9 billion in reserves, as of last week, most of which is in Treasuries and gold.

The U.S. Federal Reserve holds most of Afghan’s assets, about $7 billion: $3.1 billion in U.S. bills and bonds, $2.4 billion in WB RAMP assets, $1.2 billion in gold and $0.3 billion in cash accounts. Another $1.3 billion is in international accounts and $0.7 billion is in BIS, an international financial institution owned by central banks.

Ahmady, disclosed in a tweet the location of the assets because, he said, “I have been told Taliban are asking DAB staff about location of assets.” He added, “If this is true – it is clear they urgently need to add an economist on their team.”