The Afghan central bank said on Wednesday that the Taliban seized more than $ 12 million in cash and gold from the homes of former government officials, as a financial crisis threatens the Islamist regime a month after their takeover .
Most government workers have yet to return to work – and in many cases salaries had not been paid for months already – leaving millions of people scrambling to make ends meet.
Even those with cash in the bank struggle, as branches limit withdrawals to the equivalent of $ 200 per week, with customers standing in line for hours.
And while remittances resumed from overseas, customers waiting for funds at international chains such as Western Union and MoneyGram complained on Wednesday that branches visited were strapped for cash.
The bank demanded that all transactions in the aid-dependent country be done in local currency.
“All Afghans in government and non-governmental organizations are encouraged to use Afghan in their contracts and economic transactions,” the central bank said Wednesday.
The bank then released another statement saying that Taliban fighters handed over $ 12.3 million in cash and gold seized from the homes of former government officials – much of which was found at the home of former Vice President Amrullah Saleh.
“The money recovered came from senior officials (…) and a number of national security agencies who kept silver and gold in their homes,” the bank said.
“However, it is still unclear for what purpose they were kept.”
Abdul Rahim, a demobilized soldier from the former Afghan army, traveled nearly 1,000 kilometers from Faryab to the capital in an attempt to collect his arrears.
“Bank branches are closed in the provinces,” he told AFP on Wednesday, “and in Kabul, thousands of people are lining up to withdraw their money.”
âI’ve been going to the bank for three days, but to no avail.
The Taliban thanked the world on Tuesday after a donor conference in Geneva pledged $ 1.2 billion in aid to Afghanistan, but the country’s needs are immediate.
Donor countries, however, want conditions attached to their contributions and are loath to support a regime with such a bloody reputation as the Taliban.
Die-hard Islamists have promised a gentler form of rule compared to their first term in power, 1996-2001, but moved quickly to crush dissent, including firing into the air to disperse recent women’s protests. calling for the right to work.
Still, UN chief Antonio Guterres said this week he believes aid could be used as leverage with Islamist extremists to secure human rights improvements.
“It is very important to engage with the Taliban at this time,” he said.
Players from the Afghan national women’s football team arrived in Pakistan with their coaches and families on Wednesday, fearing a crackdown on the sport.
Meanwhile, Iran has become the latest country to resume commercial flights to Afghanistan, days after Pakistan restarted service between Islamabad and Kabul.
The United States said on Wednesday that another U.S. citizen and two U.S. permanent residents had left Afghanistan by land the day before.
At least 36 citizens and 24 permanent residents have left the country with assistance from the U.S. government since the military withdrawal in late August, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“It will continue a lot,” he told reporters.
A month into their second reign, some Afghans concede that their lives have improved since the Taliban takeover – including security in the capital, which has for years been plagued by suicide bombings and targeted assassinations largely attributed to Islamists. group.
Laalagha, a street vendor, said he was no longer shaken by corrupt police officers – although he switched to selling fruit because no one could afford his old flower item.
“I’m really happy with my new job. In the past it was like this … a policeman would come and puncture the tire in the stall and beat you.
“Now no one is bothering or creating a problem.”
But at least half of the population face the possibility of unemployment as the Taliban grapple with how to treat women in the workforce.
âThe Taliban told us to stay home,â said a woman who worked in the former government’s telecoms ministry.
“There is security, but if there is no food, the situation will change soon.”
The Taliban appointed an interim government last week and interim ministers have held press conferences outlining policies that range from how women should dress in college to sports that can be played.
But the Taliban have been light on the details of how the country will be run and when they will restore the civil service to function.