KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. and Taliban officials have exchanged proposals for the release of billions of dollars from Afghan central bank reserves held abroad into a trust fund, three sources familiar with the talks told the Reuters news agency, giving a hint of progress in efforts to ease Afghanistan’s economic crisis.
Significant differences between the sides remain, however, according to two of the sources, including the Taliban’s refusal to replace the bank’s top political appointees, one of whom is under U.S. sanctions as are several of the movement’s leaders.
Some experts said such a move would help restore confidence in the institution by insulating it from interference by the armed group that seized power a year ago but which foreign governments do not recognize.
While the Taliban do not reject the concept of a trust fund, they oppose a U.S. proposal for third-party control of the fund that would hold and disburse returned reserves, said a Taliban government source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The United States has been in talks with Switzerland and other parties on the creation of a mechanism that would include the trust fund, disbursements from which would be decided with the help of an international board, according to a U.S. source who also declined to be named to discuss the matter.
A possible model could be the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, a World Bank-administered fund created to get donations of foreign development assistance to Kabul, the U.S. source added.
“No agreement has been reached yet,” said Shah Mehrabi, an Afghan-American economics professor who is on the Afghan central bank’s Supreme Council.
The U.S. State Department and Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment; the Afghan central bank did not respond to requests for comment.
Some $9bn in reserves have been held outside Afghanistan, including $7bn in the United States, since the Taliban overran Kabul last August as U.S.-led forces withdrew after 20 years of occupation of the country.