Prior to the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan last September, the Afghan central bank deposited $7 billion in funds with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

Now, with Afghanistan teetering on the edge of insolvency and people starving to death, the Taliban wants the money back. But without ironclad assurances about what that money would be used for, the Biden administration has refused to return the assets.

So the Biden administration has decided to consolidate the $7 billion in assets the Afghan central bank kept in New York and request permission from a judge to move $3.5 billion to a trust fund to pay for immediate humanitarian relief efforts and other needs in Afghanistan, the officials said. The other $3.5 billion will be made available to the families of 9/11 victims if they wish to pursue the money in court.

New York Times:

When the Afghan government dissolved in August — with top officials, including its president and the acting governor of its central bank, fleeing the country — it left behind slightly more than $7 billion in central bank assets on deposit at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Because it was no longer clear who — if anyone — had legal authority to gain access to that account, the Fed made the funds unavailable for withdrawal.

The Taliban, now in control of Afghanistan, immediately claimed a right to the money. But a group of relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, one of several sets who had won default judgments against the group in once seemingly quixotic lawsuits years ago, sought to seize it to pay off that debt.

The journey of the various 9/11 family groups that filed suit many years ago and won several judgments has been a long and tortuous one. Unable to collect because the Taliban controlled Afghanistan and its assets, it wasn’t until the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan and the Taliban retook control that they had any hope of seeing a penny of Afghan money.

Mr. Biden has now decided that the government will not object to any court decision to devote half of the money for the Sept. 11 claims. The Justice Department is instead expected to tell the court that victims of the attacks should have a full opportunity to have their claims heard, according to people familiar with the matter.

But if the judge agrees to partly lift the writ of execution, Mr. Biden will seek to direct the remainder toward a trust fund to be spent on food and other assistance in Afghanistan — while keeping it out of the hands of the Taliban, according to people briefed on the decision. Setting up that fund and working out the details is expected to take several months, the people said.

It’s imperfect justice to be sure, but in this case, some justice is better than none. The 9/11 families were never going to see a penny of that money in their lifetimes until the $7 billion fell into the lap of the U.S. government just before the fall of Kabul.

There are thousands of claimants for that money, so it’s not likely the payouts will be very large. But there are other cases pending for the 9/11 families, including several suits against Saudi Arabia and its royal family. It may take a generation for the families of 9/11 victims to receive their just compensation, but eventually, they should get everything they deserve.

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