October 14, 2021

On October 13th, 2021 the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP), a network of 150+ member organizations working in 181 countries to end violent conflict and build sustainable peace, sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, along with other high-level officials at the State Department, USAID and the National Security Council urging Treasury to expand the breadth of General Licenses issued for Afghanistan. Those General Licenses, issued on September 24th, were limited to humanitarian and “basic human needs” assistance. While welcome, the scale and depth of the humanitarian and security crises in Afghanistan begs for more – and quickly.

C&SN was an early signatory to AfP’s letter because we share its view that a more holistic approach is necessary to effectively address the crises facing the people of Afghanistan. While the current GLs were an important step, they are not sufficient. Essential programs to support education, development, conflict resolution and human rights remain unprotected. To enable these critical efforts to continue, Treasury should issue broader licenses and work with financial institutions to support greater financial access for NGOs operating programs in Afghanistan.

In September, when the administration issued new sanctions for Ethiopia, Treasury simultaneously issued broad General Licenses to protect a broad range of activities, including humanitarian projects, democracy building, education, development projects, and environmental and natural resource protection. Questions remain about the divergent approaches between licenses for Ethiopia and Afghanistan. Is there a policy reason, or a political reason, or simply a lack of coherence in Treasury’s approach to issuing general licenses? Whatever the explanation, the administration should take steps to correct this inconsistency by supporting broader protections for NPOs working in Afghanistan.

These are issues that C&SN has advocated for in partnership with AfP and many others in our network for years. While the Biden administration continues to undertake its sanctions policy review, the situation in Afghanistan is dire. Treasury, through its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), can issue more sweeping general licenses immediately that allow for a broader range of activities by NPOs while still ensuring that resources do not support the Taliban.