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LONDON/WASHINGTON - The insurgent Taliban took over Afghanistan with astonishing speed, but it appears unlikely that it will prove equally as fast in gaining control of most of the Afghan central bank’s roughly $10 billion in assets.
The country's central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), is thought to hold foreign currency, gold and other treasures in its vaults, though the exact contents are unclear, according to an Afghan official. Moreover, the vast majority of the assets are held outside Afghanistan, according to another source familiar with the matter, which may leave most of the hoard beyond the insurgents' reach.
Reuters was unable to reach Afghan central bank officials. The bank's governor, Ajmal Ahmady, said in a Twitter thread https://twitter.com/aahmady/status/1427265049668636674 he left deputies in charge of the bank on Sunday, later flying out of Kabul airport after President Ashraf Ghani and other key officials had already fled. Ahmady did not respond to Reuters' emails and messages seeking comment.
The Taliban said in a statement on Saturday that the treasury, public facilities and government offices were the property of the nation and "should be strictly guarded."
Here is what we know about the central bank's assets and reserves:
The most recent financial statement posted online https://dab.gov.af/sites/default/files/2021-08/Monthly%20Financial%20statement%20%20for%20the%20month%20of%20Jawza%20%201400%20%28English%29%20%20.pdf shows DAB holds total assets of about $10 billion, including $1.3 billion-worth of gold reserves and $362 million in foreign currency cash reserves, according to currency conversion rates on June 21, the date of the report.
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However, a big chunk of it won't be held in the country.
Central banks, especially in developing nations, often park their assets overseas with institution such as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) or the Bank of England.
According to DAB's consolidated statement https://dab.gov.af/sites/default/files/2021-04/DA%20AFGHANISTAN%20BANK%20CONSOLIDATED%20FINANCIAL%20STATEMENTS%20FOR%20THE%20YEAR%20ENDED%20QAWS%20301399%20%28DECEMBER%20202020%29final.pdf, the FRBNY held gold bars worth 101,770,256,000 afghanis - at the time $1.32 billion - on behalf of the Afghan central bank in its vaults by end-2020.
The DAB's June statement also states that the bank owned investments worth $6.1 billion. While the latest report did not provide details of those investments, a breakdown in the year-end report showed that the majority of those investments were in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds and bills.
Investments were made through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), an arm of the World Bank, or through the FRBNY and held in New York. Among its smaller items are shares in an investment pool by the Bank for International Settlement, which is based in Switzerland, as well as the Economic Cooperation Organisation Trade and Development Bank in Turkey.