Banks in Afghanistan start to reopen after days of closures. Hundreds of people lined up to withdraw money. The banks were closed on August 15, just before the Taliban swept the capital and the former head of state Ashraf Ghani fled to the United Arab Emirates.
At first, the closures resulted from fears that the Taliban’s arrival in Kabul would cause bloodshed and ransacking. As the days went on, the banks remained closed due to Washington’s pronouncement on suspending access to $7 billion of the Afghan Central Bank’s gold and cash reserves in the Federal Reserve. The International Monetary Fund also suspended access to $460 million granted to Afghanistan.
These activities came days after thousands of Afghans assembled at banks and ATMs in Kabul to withdraw as much of their cash before the group arrived as possible. People in Afghanistan use cash, and the two crises of being without physical money for days and the defeat of another government left them in fear.
A 35-year-old Massoud has stayed in Kabul for weeks thinking about providing for his family in the Northern province of Kunduz. He has 29,000 Afghanis in the bank, but he cannot access it even after the banks reopens. He says it could take a few days. He describes how he queued at the bank for hours and still could not enter the bank compound itself. Massoud said he has been working as a laborer for a living, but with a business not doing so well, he has been unable to go back to his family in Kunduz.
Massoud claimed he gained that cash serving his nation in the most challenging times. He worked in the Afghan Military and was deployed to the southern province of Kandahar. “We came under siege so many times. We had to go to war without anything to eat or drink. And yet because the authorities decides to surrender and leave, we are left without access to the money we worked for,” he said, citing many prominent members of the former government who fled the country.
Massoud’s fellow soldier, Abdul, who served in a district of Kabul, was also in line. “Now that the Taliban has taken over security tasks in the country, most of the Afghan National Security Forces wonder if they will not have another time to pick up a salary,” Abdul said. The two militants feared they might not have a source of income in the months ahead. “We are not sure if we will have jobs anymore to cater for our families.”
Wafiulla, a former employee of the Ministry of Counternarcotics, which later became the Ministry of Interior, lined up for four hours to withdraw 150,000 Afghanis remaining in his account. He said he has a family of eight members, and he was lucky he could have roughly three months of paper cash. But like many people, he cannot be assured of a job in the future, nor does he think the banks will be able to keep up with the hurry of the crowds trying to withdraw as much of their money as possible.
The World Bank declared that it would also suspend help to Afghanistan just like the IMF and the United States. Economic experts and entrepreneurs said that these withdrawals and sanctions would weaken the financial situation of the country and the Taliban will have to re-enter global markets.