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Afghanistan: Taliban to start paying public employees

November 20, 2021

Amid a mounting economic crisis, the Taliban has pledged to pay three months' worth of lost wages to public employees. The group boasted of new revenue, but did not specify where it came from.

Afghans wait in line for passports
The Taliban has begun to offer public services such as the processing of passports (pictured) and the payment of salariesImage: Ahmad Halabisaz/AP/picture alliance

The Taliban government said on Saturday that it had begun paying government employees who had been without their salaries since the Islamist group seized power in Kabul in August. The takeover sparked a major financial crisis.

"We are going to start paying salaries from today. We will pay three months' salaries," Ahmad Wali Haqmal, spokesman for the Finance Ministry said at a press conference.

The payment will be made available through the country's banking system. But it remains unclear if the funds will reach those who need it. 

Since August, Afghanistan's banking sector has collapsed, and people with money in banks have struggled to access their funds as branches curtailed withdrawals.

Millions more in state coffers

In the absence of money, most government employees have yet to return to work. Many had not even been paid for months before the Taliban came to power.

Another Taliban spokesman, Inamullah Samangani, said on Saturday that the group's revenue collection had increased recently.

"The Finance Ministry says that, in the last 78 working days of the last three months, we have generated income of about 26.915 billion Afghanis ($288 million/€255 million)," he claimed.

"We collected 557 million Afghanis in revenue on Wednesday alone," Samangani said, quoting the Finance Ministry, and adding that the payment of pensions to retired workers would also resume soon.

Taliban asks US Congress for funds

Afghanistan's financial crunch has been aggravated since Washington froze aid to Kabul and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund halted Afghanistan's access to funding.

Afghan economy depends heavily on opium

The situation has forced Afghans to sell their household goods to raise money for food and other essentials, with the currency crashing and prices skyrocketing.

Foreign donors, led by the United States, used to provide more than 75% of the public expenditure under Afghanistan's 20-year Washington-backed government.

US: Support must be 'earned'

The Taliban sent an open letter to the US Congress on Wednesday, pleading with legislators to release assets frozen after the takeover of the country and warning that economic turmoil at home could lead to trouble abroad.

But President Joe Biden's administration said on Friday that Kabul must make changes before receiving the funds.

"Legitimacy and support must be earned by actions to address terrorism, establish an inclusive government, and respect the rights of minorities, women and girls — including equal access to education and employment," Thomas West, the US special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Washington has seized nearly $9.5 billion (€8.4 billion) in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. But West pointed to the ongoing draught and the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they were also contributing to the financial calamity.

"The US will continue to support the Afghan people with humanitarian aid," he said, noting that $474 million has already been provided this year.

jcg/dj (AFP, Reuters)