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U.S. Permits Some Transactions With Taliban To Send Aid To Afghanistan

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Displaced Afghan women wait to receive aid from the UNHCR on the outskirts of Kabul in October.

The United States has announced additional steps aimed at easing the flow of assistance to those in need in Afghanistan, as the the war-torn country teeters on the brink of a humanitarian crisis after Taliban militants seized power in August.

The Treasury Department on December 22 issued three “general licenses” that will enable U.S. officials and those of the United Nations and other international organizations to engage in transactions involving the Taliban or the related Haqqani network as long as they are official business.

They will also give nongovernmental organizations protection from U.S. sanctions on the two militants groups for work on certain kinds of projects, including humanitarian programs for "basic human needs," rule of law, and education.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the international community has refused to recognize them as the new rulers and has urged the militants to establish an inclusive government and to ensure the fundamental human rights of all Afghans.

Ministers Warn Of 'Horrendous Consequences' Unless Afghan Aid Expedited
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Key global donors have blocked most of their aid to the country, and reserves of the Afghan central bank held abroad have also been frozen.

Having designated the Taliban as a terrorist group for years, Washington has ordered its U.S. assets frozen and barred Americans from dealing with it, severely restricted the group’s access to the outside money that supported the Afghan economy before the overthrow of the internationally backed government in Kabul.

The Treasury Department said the latest steps "help implement" the resolution unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council earlier in the day that allows the "payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities."

The freeing up of humanitarian assistance supports "basic human needs in Afghanistan" and is "not a violation" of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban, the text reads.

The U.K. mission to the UN said in a tweet that the "resolution will help save lives by ensuring that 1988 sanctions regime poses no obstacle to provision of humanitarian assistance."

"This directly responds to what the humanitarian community told us they need," it added.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's main spokesman, told AFP that the council's resolution was a “good step" that “can help Afghanistan's economic situation."

He also called on the international community to "speed up" efforts to remove other crippling financial sanctions imposed on entities linked to the militant group.

A World Food Program (WFP) survey last week showed that an estimated 98 percent of Afghans are not eating enough, with 7-in-10 families resorting to borrowing food, which pushes them deeper into poverty.

Prices for food, fuel, and other basics have been rising, putting them out of reach for many people, and pressure on the Afghan currency has made the impact worse.

Earlier this month, the World Bank said donors had approved the transfer of $280 million from a frozen trust fund to two aid agencies to help Afghanistan respond to its humanitarian crisis.

During the 1996-2001 Taliban rule of Afghanistan, the militants banned women and girls from education and public life, mandated beards for men and attendance at prayers, banned sports and entertainment, and carried out public executions.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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