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Taliban won’t get $9 bn reserves held in US and Swiss banks, says Afghan central bank chief

The Afghanistan Central Bank chief Ajmal Ahmady ssaid that the Taliban insurgents will not get access to a whopping $9 billion of the bank’s reserves held in overseas accounts

Afghanistan Central Bank chief Ajmal Ahmady has dropped a bombshell by declaring that the Taliban insurgents will not get access to a whopping $9 billion of the bank’s reserves held in overseas accounts.

Ahmady, who fled Kabul in a military plane on Sunday when the Taliban were still on the outskirts of the city, tweeted: Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) had around $9 billion in reserves, but most of that is held in banks overseas, out of reach of the Taliban.

"As per international standards, most assets are held in safe, liquid assets such as treasuries and gold," he explained.

Ahmady said the US Federal Reserve holds $7 billion of the country's reserves, including $1.2 billion in gold, while the rest is held in international accounts including the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements.

Amid reports that the Taliban were questioning central bank staff on the location of the assets, he said, "If this is true — it is clear they urgently need to add an economist on their team."

He said that Washington had on Friday cut off cash shipments to the country as the security situation deteriorated, which may have fuelled reports the Taliban stole the reserves since the country's banks could not return dollars to account holders.

"Please note that in no way were Afghanistan's international reserves ever compromised," and are held in accounts that are "easily audited," Ahmady said.

"Given that the Taliban are still on international sanction lists, it is expected (confirmed?) that such assets will be frozen and not accessible to Taliban," Ahmady said on Wednesday.

"We can say the accessible funds to the Taliban are perhaps 0.1-0.2% of Afghanistan’s total international reserves. Not much," he pointed out.

An official in U.S. President Joe Biden's administration told Reuters: "Any central bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban."

DAB's foreign currency cash holdings worth around $362 million are almost entirely U.S. dollars and were held at the bank's head offices and branches as well as the presidential palace, which is now in the hands of the Taliban.

The DAB's year-end statement also details that just under $160 million worth of gold bars and silver coins were held at the bank's vault at the presidential palace.

The most recent financial statement posted online shows DAB holds total assets of about $10 billion, including $1.3 billion-worth of gold reserves and $362 million in foreign currency cash reserves as of June 21.  Ahmady estimated total reserves stood at $9 billion last week.

Also read: Afghan central bank governor flees Kabul on military plane, blames Ghani for debacle