- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2021

President Biden bowed to his party’s far-left on Wednesday by easing economic restrictions on the Taliban and allowing U.S. tax dollars to fund “civil society” programs in Afghanistan.

The Treasury Department issued three new directives allowing the federal government and international aid organizations to more easily circumvent existing sanctions on the Taliban, a terrorist organization now in control of Afghanistan.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the new guidelines would allow the U.S. and humanitarian groups to provide greater money and assistance to Afghanistan.

“The United States is the largest single provider of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Adeyemo. “Unfortunately, the economy faces grave challenges, exacerbated by the country’s long dependence on foreign aid, donor and private sector flight sparked by the Taliban’s takeover, drought, structural macroeconomic issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mr. Biden made the decision just days after 46 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus demanded the White House ease restrictions on the Taliban.

“We deplore the new Taliban government’s grave human rights abuses, crackdowns on civil society and repression of women and LGBTQ people,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Mr. Biden and the Treasury Department. “However, pragmatic U.S. engagement with the de facto authorities is nevertheless key to averting unprecedented harm to tens of millions of women, children and innocent civilians.”

Republicans say that while the humanitarian crisis brewing in Afghanistan is tragic, it is important for the U.S. to make clear that the Taliban is not a legitimate government.

“Despite its depraved behavior, you won’t hear anyone in our government call the Taliban what it is: a terrorist organization,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican. “At least 14 of the Taliban’s 33 so-called cabinet ministers are on United Nations sanctions lists for terrorism. No fewer than five were once held with terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.”

The new directives greatly expand the financial assistance that the U.S. and international organizations can provide to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The list now includes funding for civil society development programs, government accountability, and activities to support rule of law, as well as boost citizen participation in the government.

U.S. taxpayer dollars will also go to helping ensure Taliban-controlled Afghanistan nurtures “environmental and natural resource protection.”

“Treasury has provided broad authorizations that ensure NGOs, international organizations, and the U.S. government can continue to provide relief to those in need,” said Mr. Adeyemo.

In August, Afghanistan‘s democratically elected government fell to the Taliban, an Islamist political and military group that harbored al Qaeda as it plotted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The collapse came shortly after Mr. Biden withdrew U.S. troops, despite warnings from both Republicans and the intelligence community that the pro-American Afghan government couldn’t fend off the Taliban.

Senior administration officials denied receiving warnings of a Taliban takeover and then claimed the Taliban‘s ascendance was inevitable.

“We made the right decision in ending America’s longest war,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said recently. “We made the right decision in not sending a third generation of Americans to fight and die in Afghanistan.”

Mr. Biden opted to follow the lead of international organizations and impose economic restrictions on the Taliban following their capture of Afghanistan. The maneuver not only froze billions of dollars of Afghan money held in American banks but also curtailed the Taliban’s access to international aid.

Progressives say such actions have contributed to the suffering of the Afghan people. They point to U.N. estimates showing that Afghanistan will face widespread famine this winter, with 97% of its residents expected to be living in poverty.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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