We all watched the events of these past weeks in Afghanistan take place in rapid succession. Then Sunday, the Taliban overran the roughly 20-year old, U.S.-supported government last headed by Ashraf Ghani, forcing him into exile. While U.S. contractors have largely left the country, it is still noteworthy that Afghanistan is now ruled by an OFAC-designated group. This makes virtually all interactions with the new leaders in Kabul prohibited (well, dealings with the Taliban have been prohibited for quite a long time, but now they run the country).
Specifically, the Taliban is designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR Part 594 (the “GTSR”). This means that they are on OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the “SDN List”, sometimes called the OFAC “blacklist”).
Dealings with such parties by U.S. persons (i.e., U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they reside, and U.S. companies or companies owned by them) are almost entirely prohibited, with very limited exception. This covers the importation and exportation of goods and services (which can include matters like receiving permits to operate on the ground in Afghanistan, etc.), and other issues. This means that a lot of dealings with Afghanistan’s government that did not require OFAC licensing effectively now do. Naturally, it can have tremendous effects on media, non-governmental organizations working in Afghanistan, and other charitable providers, as well as on even non-U.S. parties such as banks, money remitters, etc.
Given the freshness of these events, OFAC might not have had the chance to issue new regulations, guidance, and or clarifications on this issue, but don’t be surprised if it does in the coming days (Reuters reported today that the UK has indicated new sanctions). Also note that a number of other entities in Afghanistan are SDGTs.
This isn’t the first time a country is headed by a U.S. sanctioned-party – Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raissi is himself an SDN, and many members of Iran’s regime are SDNs. Similarly Bashar Assad of Syria and some in his government are also sanctioned by OFAC.