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Terrorist’s Afghan Hideout Chills US Bid to Free $3.5 Billion

  • Killing of al-Qaeda leader underscores fragility of aid effort
  • US has worked to unfreeze Afghan central bank’s funds
Ayman al-Zawahiri in this undated photo
Ayman al-Zawahiri in this undated photoSource: Getty Images 

The Taliban’s apparent sheltering of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed last weekend in a US drone strike in Kabul, dealt a blow to an already politically fraught attempt to free up $3.5 billion in frozen bank funds to alleviate poverty and famine in Afghanistan.

A year after the US withdrew its forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban seized control, the South Asian country faces dire circumstances. Before President Joe Biden said this week that the Taliban had let Zawahari live quietly in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital, US officials were working on a complicated plan to distribute half of almost $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank assets for humanitarian aid.