Protest outside bank in Afghanistan as cash crisis deepens after Taliban seize control

·3-min read
Afghans in front of New Kabul Bank having to wait for hours to try to withdraw money (AP)
Afghans in front of New Kabul Bank having to wait for hours to try to withdraw money (AP)

Hundreds of people in Afghanistan have protested outside a bank over their inability to withdraw money.

It comes as the country’s ailing economy is getting worse since the Taliban’s takeover earlier this month.

Many people in Kabul have been unable to take money out of cash machines despite the Taliban declaring earlier this week that financial institutions would re-open.

Banks had shut on 15 August, just before former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and the Taliban arrived in the capital to occupy the presidential palace.

Long lines of people desperate to withdraw cash have formed at New Kabul Bank.

People queuing and protesting included civil servants who have demanded their wages that they say have been unpaid for the last three to six months.

The protesters said that no one has been able to withdraw cash and, although cash machines are in operation, withdrawals are limited to around £145 ($200) every 24 hours – which has resulted in long queues of people.

Najibullah Amiri, head of Afghanistan Banks Association, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency that banks have not resumed operations due to technical problems.

He denied rumours that banks are out of cash, adding that the banks are expected to resume normal services in the next few days.

The Taliban cannot access any of the central bank’s £6.5 billion ($9bn) in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve.

The International Monetary Fund has also suspended the transfer of about £327 million ($450m). Without a regular supply of US dollars, the local currency is at risk of collapse and this could see the price of basic goods spike.

The situation comes as a United Nations’ World Food Programme has warned that some 14 million people, about a third of Afghanistan’s population, urgently need food assistance.

Afghanistan has already been heavily dependent on aid, which covered around 75 per cent of the budget of the Western-backed Afghan government before it crumbled earlier this month.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said Afghans are also suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and displacement from the recent fighting.

The economic crisis, which predates the Taliban’s rise to power, could give Western nations leverage as they urge Afghanistan’s new rulers to form a moderate, inclusive government.

The West has also urged the Taliban to allow people to leave the country after the planned withdrawal of US forces on 31 August. The Taliban has rejected any extension to the deadline.

The Taliban has said it wants good relations with the international community and has pledged a more moderate form of Islamic rule than when they last governed the country, but many Afghans are deeply sceptical of their promises.

The Taliban has also said that Afghans will be allowed to leave on commercial flights that will resume after the withdrawal of foreign troops, but it is unclear if airlines will be willing to offer the services.

More than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated through the Kabul airport, according to the US, but thousands more are struggling to leave and may not make it out by Tuesday’s deadline.

At Kabul airport, thousands of people are still gathering in the hope of fleeing the country, even after a suicide attack and gunfire on Thursday killed about 169 Afghans and 13 US service members. There are fears there could be more attacks.

Many countries, including the UK, have carried out their last evacuation flights today of civilians in Kabul.

Additional reporting by AP

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