Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, speaks during the China Development Forum in Beijing, China March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Pool

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 10 (Reuters) – More than 70 economists and experts, including Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, called on Washington and other countries to release Afghan central bank assets in a letter sent to U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

The letter said foreign capital should return some $9 billion in Afghan central bank assets to Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) to allow the economy to function, despite criticism of the ruling Taliban’s behavior towards the Taliban. women and minorities.

“The Afghan people have been made to suffer doubly for a government they did not choose,” the letter said. “In order to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and put the Afghan economy on the path to recovery, we urge you to allow the DAB to recover its international reserves.”

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The letter, also addressed to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, was signed by 71 economists and academic experts, many of whom are based in the US as well as Germany, India and the UK. Among them were former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001 and serves on the advisory board of the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which organized the letter. .

Afghanistan’s economy has plunged deep into crisis since the Taliban seized power nearly a year ago when foreign forces withdrew. The sudden reduction in aid and other factors, including inflation caused by the conflict in Ukraine, have contributed, but economists say the country is seriously hampered by the inability of its central bank to operate without access to his reservations.

This caused the Afghan currency to depreciate sharply, driving up import prices, and led to a near collapse of the banking system as citizens struggled to access their savings and receive salaries.

“Without access to its foreign exchange reserves, the central bank of Afghanistan cannot perform its normal and essential functions…the economy of Afghanistan has, predictably, , collapsed,” the letter read.

Washington and other capitals say they want to find a way to release the funds to benefit the Afghan people without benefiting the Taliban, whom they have condemned for imposing severe restrictions on women’s freedoms over the past year and allegedly committed human rights abuses including blood feuds against former enemies.

The Taliban say they respect rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law and that individual abuses would be investigated.

Despite their starkly different stances, the two sides are engaged in detailed discussions about plans to eventually release central bank assets, about $7 billion of which are held in the United States. About half of this sum is currently set aside as it is the subject of a legal battle related to the September 11 attacks.

Major sticking points remain in the banking negotiations, in particular US objections to the Taliban’s appointment of a central bank deputy governor who faces US sanctions. Read more

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Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay in Washington Editing by Michael Collett-White and Mark Potter

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