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The White House must figure out what to do with the Afghan central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve, now frozen under U.S. law.
WASHINGTON — Nearly 20 years ago, about 150 family members of Sept. 11 victims sought a measure of justice for their losses by suing a list of targets like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. A decade later, a court found the defendants liable by default and ordered them to pay damages now worth about $7 billion.
Today, however, the Taliban is back in control of Afghanistan. The group’s leaders say their country’s central bank account at the Federal Reserve in New York, in which the former government accumulated about $7 billion from foreign aid and other sources, is rightfully theirs. And that in turn has raised a question: If the money is the Taliban’s, shouldn’t the plaintiffs in the Sept. 11 lawsuit be entitled to seize it?
High-level officials in the Biden administration are now debating the answer to that question, which presents a complex knot of national security, legal, diplomatic and political problems — the latest example of how thorny issues stemming from the terrorist attacks remain unresolved more than two decades later.
Among the specifics to be worked out is whether and how the United States can sidestep any legal requirement to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government in order to use the money in the central bank account to help resolve the claim by the Sept. 11 families.
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