The United States is now reportedly considering giving direct financial aid and economic assistance to the Taliban, despite international sanctions placed on the group over its material support for radical Islamic terrorism, and despite nearly two decades of considering the Taliban a sworn enemy.
Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that the U.S. is considering aid.
“There is an important dimension of humanitarian assistance that should go directly to the people of Afghanistan,” Sullivan began. “They need help with respect to health, and food aid, and other forms of subsistence, and we do intend to continue that.”
“Secondly, when it comes to our economic and development assistance relationship with the Taliban, that will be about the Taliban’s actions,” he continued. “That will be about whether they follow through on their commitments to safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies, their commitment to not allow Afghanistan a base from which terrorists can attack the United States or any other country, their commitments with respect to upholding their international obligations.”
“It’s going to be up to them,” Sullivan said. “And we will wait and see, by their actions, how we end up responding.”
Sullivan’s comments mean that the Biden administration has not taken direct aid to the Taliban government off the table.
The Biden administration has spoken favorably about providing aid to the Afghan people, but that is complicated by the Taliban now being in control of the government, which is largely responsible for disbursing that aid. WLS Chicago previously reported that the Taliban “siphoned off” nearly 50% of all aid poured into Afghanistan since the beginning of the war; that aid effectively enabled the Taliban to begin its military offensive — an offensive that led to the U.S.’s premature and arguably disastrous withdrawal.
“Congress has said that most of the aid the US has sent in the past several years, didn’t end up with the people who need it already, but they figured that about 50% of American aid to Afghanistan in the past several years, has been siphoned off to warlords or to corruption or to fraud,” a Northwestern University political science professor told the outlet. “And so with the change in government in Afghanistan I think the odds of using American money to influence events and improve people’s lives are pretty slim.”
It is likely that the Biden administration views economic aid as the “leverage” it has often referred to in discussions over how the administration plans to extract the “hundreds” of Americans who wanted to evacuate but were left behind when the U.S. pulled out on Monday.
The administration, for example, “might try to use foreign aid as leverage to persuade the Taliban to uphold human rights, particularly with respect to allowing refugees to leave the country and allowing women and girls to continue to pursue education and work opportunities outside the home,” The Hill reported.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this quoted Reuters as saying that the U.S. designates the Taliban as a terrorist organization. The Taliban is not designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. The claim has been removed.