The U.S. is providing humanitarian aid through several independent organizations in Afghanistan, but not through the Taliban government. Yet an online article falsely claims that the Biden administration will “send the Taliban millions in US dollars,” and repeats a debunked claim about the cost of U.S. military weapons left after the U.S. withdrawal.
Not long after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement on Aug. 30 explaining that the U.S. would continue to provide aid for the people of Afghanistan.
“The United States will continue to support humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. Consistent with our sanctions on the Taliban, the aid will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations, such as UN agencies and NGOs. And we expect that those efforts will not be impeded by the Taliban or anyone else,” Blinken said.
But Gateway Pundit — a right-leaning website with a history of spreading misinformation — posted a headline on Oct. 10 claiming, “Biden Admin to Send the Taliban Millions in US Dollars After Arming Them with $83 Billion in US Military Weapons.”
But the first part of the headline is false, and the second part is misleading.
Nevertheless, the claim has been shared on social media with versions appearing on Twitter and YouTube.
A day after the Gateway Pundit article, in a YouTube video titled, “Why Are We Sending More Money?”, Kimberly Klacik, a Republican from Maryland who has unsuccessfully run twice for a seat in Congress, said, “President Joe Biden is going to give more humanitarian aid to the Taliban” on top of giving them “$85 billion worth of weaponry.”
Directing Dollars to Aid Organizations
In a Sept. 3 article, the Wall Street Journal reported that humanitarian aid from the U.S. will go to international independent aid groups, such as the United Nations’ World Food Program, World Health Organization and International Organization for Migration, not the Taliban.
The Gateway Pundit notes later in its article that the money the U.S. is sending to Afghanistan is for humanitarian aid, but does not explain the funds will be going to independent groups working in Afghanistan.
The article reads, “Now the Biden administration is going to send the Taliban terrorists millions in humanitarian aid. It really is as if we lost the war and now we’re paying reparations to the terrorists.”
But it is false to say the U.S. is “paying reparations to the terrorists.” As the Wall Street Journal reported on Sept. 24, the U.S. will continue to enforce sanctions against the Taliban, while issuing waivers to allow independent aid agencies and the private sector to distribute U.S. humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
Andrea M. Gacki, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a Sept. 24 press release, “Treasury is committed to facilitating the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and other activities that support their basic human needs. Treasury will continue to work with financial institutions, international organizations, and the nongovernmental organization (NGO) community to ease the flow of critical resources, like agricultural goods, medicine, and other essential supplies, to people in need, while upholding and enforcing our sanctions against the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other sanctioned entities.”
The Taliban has been under U.S. and international sanctions since 1999, when former President Bill Clinton issued an executive order “prohibiting transactions with the Taliban,” and worked with the United Nations to impose international sanctions as well. President George W. Bush expanded U.S. sanctions against the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Bush issued executive order 13224 to deter funding of terrorism and used the order to designate the Taliban as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.
Bush’s executive order has been modified over the years, but remains in effect, and was most recently used by Biden in mid-August to freeze assets held by Afghanistan in U.S. banks after the Taliban took control of that country.
Biden’s secretary of state said the U.S. has no intention of removing the sanctions unless the Taliban changes its governing policies. “Sanctions won’t be lifted, their ability to travel won’t happen if they’re not sustaining the basic rights of the Afghan people and if they revert to supporting or harboring terrorists who might strike us,” Blinken said Aug. 15 on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Stephen Biddle, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, said it is possible to send humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan without giving money to the ruling government.
“My impression is that for many years, some Western aid for Afghanistan did not go through the Afghan government, but instead went to Western NGOs operating in Afghanistan. The Afghan government was often upset about this, as they felt it would help them build a relationship with the population if the money went to them for distribution rather than to non-government agencies,” Biddle said in an email to FactCheck.org.
“Of course, money is fungible. The government raises tax revenues from the population, so aid to the population eventually translates into revenue for the government,” said Biddle, who was a member of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team in Kabul in 2009. “But the aid doesn’t necessarily have to go directly to the government in the first instance. (All of this assumes that the Taliban decides to permit such aid to enter the country, of course.)”
The United States isn’t the only country offering aid to the Afghan people. The European Union pledged $1.15 billion in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan on Oct. 12.
Inflating the Cost of U.S. Arms Left Behind
The Gateway Pundit article also inaccurately claims that the Taliban had been armed with “$83 billion in U.S. military weapons.”
The article claims, “Joe Biden decided to leave the nearly $83 billion worth of US military equipment to the Taliban,” also adding a “complete list” of the weapons left behind.
But, as we’ve reported before, “that figure — actually $82.9 billion — is the total amount spent on the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund” between 2003 and 2016 since the war began in 2001. As of June 30, about $75 billion was actually disbursed. But military equipment costs were only a piece of that fund. The lion’s share was for salaries for members of the Afghan army and national police — both of whom had been defending the country from Taliban attacks for years.
Military experts say the cost of military equipment seized by the Taliban is smaller than what was purchased for the Afghans because much of the equipment has become inoperable, including some weapons and equipment that have been moved out of the country or “decommissioned” or destroyed.
“Appendix B U.S. Funds for Afghanistan Reconstruction.” Special Inspector General Afghanistan Reconstruction. 20 Jul 2021.
Biddle, Stephen. Professor of international and public affairs, Columbia University. Email to FactCheck.org. 15 Oct 2021.
Congressional Research Service. “U.S. Military Withdrawal and Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan: Frequently Asked Questions.” 17 Sep 2021.
Farley, Rob. “Republicans Inflate Cost of Taliban-Seized U.S. Military Equipment.” FactCheck.org. 3 Sep 2021.
Gore, D’Angelo. “Instagram Post Missing Context About Israeli Study on COVID-19 Natural Immunity.” FactCheck.org. Updated on 8 Sep 2021.
Harlan, Chico. “G-20 emergency meeting on Afghanistan yields $1.5 billion in aid from E.U. but no other comparable pledges.” Washington Post. 12 Oct 2021.
Hoft, Jim. “Biden Admin to Send the Taliban Millions in US Dollars After Arming them with $83 Billion in US Military Weapons.” Gateway Pundit. 10 Oct 2021.
Jelinek, Emilie. “A Study of NGO Relations with Government and Communities in Afghanistan.” Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development. Nov 2006.
“Kim Klacik” webpage. Ballotpedia. Accessed 12 Oct 2021.
Mauldin, William and Ian Talley. “U.S. Resuming Some Funding for Humanitarian Aid Efforts in Afghanistan.” Wall Street Journal. 3 Sep 2021.
“Quarterly Report to Congress.” Special Inspector General Afghanistan Reconstruction. 20 Jul 2021.
Reuters. “Bush Decides to Keep Afghan Sanctions.” New York Times. 3 Jul 2001.
Stein, Jeff. “Biden administration freezes billions of dollars in Afghan reserves, depriving Taliban of cash.” Washington Post. 17 Aug 2021
Tousi, Mahyar (@MahyarTousi). “Biden: so Taliban killed our people and took our guns. I think we should reward them by giving them more free money.” Twitter. 12 Oct 2021.
U.S. Department of State. “Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s Remarks on Afghanistan.” Press release. 30 Aug 2021.
U.S. Department of State. “Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Jake Tapper of State of the Union on CNN.” Press release. 15 Aug 2021.
U.S. Department of the Treasury. “Treasury Issues General Licenses and Guidance to Facilitate Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan.” Press release. 24 Sep 2021.
“Why Are We Sending More Money?” Video. YouTube. 11 Oct 2021.