World Bank halts aid to Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

A Taliban stands guard as Afghans hold national flag as they celebrate the 102nd Independence day in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 19 August 2021. Afghanistan is celebrating the 102nd anniversary of its independence from British rule on 18 August.

The World Bank has halted funding for projects in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country. It cited concerns over how the Taliban’s takeover will impact “the country’s development prospects, especially for women”.

The move comes just days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended payments to Afghanistan. The Biden administration has also frozen the assets of Afghanistan’s central bank that are held in the US.

“We have paused disbursements in our operations in Afghanistan and we are closely monitoring and assessing the situation in line with our internal policies and procedures,” a World Bank spokesperson told the BBC.

“We will continue to consult closely with the international community and development partners. Together with our partners we are exploring ways we can remain engaged to preserve hard-won development gains and continue to support the people of Afghanistan.”

Since 2002 the Washington-based financial institution has committed more than $5.3bn (£3.9bn) to reconstruction and development projects in Afghanistan.

On Friday, the World Bank told staff that its Kabul-based team and their immediate families had been safely evacuated from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

The decision by the World Bank to suspend payments to Afghanistan is the latest financial blow to the country’s new government. Last week, the IMF announced that Afghanistan will no longer be able to access the global lender’s resources.

An IMF spokesperson said it was due to “lack of clarity within the international community” over recognizing a government in Afghanistan. Around $440m of new monetary reserves had been set to be made available to the country from 23 August.

Also in the days after the Taliban took control of Kabul, the White House said any assets that Afghanistan’s central bank has in the US would not be made available to the Taliban. Da Afghanistan Bank has reserves of roughly $9bn, most of which is held in the US.

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