Attorneys for 9/11 victims’ families have asked the courts to seize the former Afghan government’s funds from the Federal Reserve in New York–funds the Taliban now claims as its own.
The White House is reportedly considering whether the victims of September 11th victims can be compensated through frozen Taliban funds.
According to The Hill, about 150 family members of 9/11 victims filed lawsuits against organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
When al-Qaeda and Taliban representatives failed to present themselves in court, they were subject to default judgments ordering them to pay more than $7 billion in damages.
However, until very recently, there was no practical way for these families to actually receive the compensation. Since both al-Qaeda and the Taliban are designated terror organizations—with which U.S. entities are prohibited from transacting—the courts had no way to garnish or seize the groups’ funds.
Now, though, the White House may have room to maneuver.
Before the collapse of the Afghan government this past summer, the country had deposited billions of dollars in the New York Federal Reserve.
Since taking power, the Taliban has requested that the money be deposited to its own accounts.
Now that the Taliban has effectively risen its own government, it believes it is entitled to its predecessors’ funds.
However, the family members of 9/11 victims say that all or some of that money should belong to them.
The Biden administration thus faces in a dilemma: although the Taliban is no longer considered a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the United States enforces sanctions on the group, including a wide-ranging prohibition on financial transactions.
The Hill notes that two of the plaintiffs—both women who lost their husbands in the attacks—have asked President Biden and his administration to use the Taliban’s frozen funds to help 9/11 survivors, as well as the family members of deceased victims.
“After our husbands were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, we have spent many years fighting to achieve justice on their behalf,” the women said in a joint statement.
“Together with others in our case, we obtained an enforceable money judgment against the Taliban and now call on President Biden to ensure the funds we have attached go to us and not the terrorists who played a role in taking the lives of our loved ones,” they said.
The New York Times reports that, while the Biden administration was slated to advise the courts on its position on Friday, the Justice Department asked to delay its input until at least January 28th.
On Thursday, federal magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn granted the government’s request for a delay, saying that “the court recognizes that the treatment of the Afghan funds currently in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York involves numerous complicated questions of law and policy.”
The Times notes that any potential seizure of Taliban funds could create problems for 9/11 victims’ family members: numerous groups have filed lawsuits against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but not all of their requests have been approved or considered eligible to receive the same amount of compensation. Thus, any seizure of the Afghan government’s financial accounts could cause an inequitable re-distribution of funds.