On February 2, 2022, the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) issued seven new Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) (FAQs 957 through 963) and on February 25, 2022, issued General License 20, “Authorizing Transactions Involving Afghanistan or Governing Institutions in Afghanistan” (“GL 20“) to expand authorizations for commercial and financial transactions in Afghanistan and seven new FAQs (FAQs 991 through 997). OFAC also made updates to FAQs to account for the new GL 20. The common thread for the new GL20 and the FAQs is to facilitate transactions and activities that support basic human needs in Afghanistan, a country faced with a widespread humanitarian and economic crisis. We summarize GL 20 and some of the key FAQs below.
FAQs 957 through 963
Under these FAQs, OFAC clarified certain authorizations provided by previous general licenses (“GLs“) (see our previous blogs on these previous GLs here and here). For example, FAQ 957 clarifies that, under GL 15, US companies are authorized to ship food and agricultural products to Afghanistan, while financial institutions are authorized to process financial transfers for such shipments, provided certain conditions are met.
FAQ 958 provides examples of transactions involving the Taliban or the Haqqani Network which are authorized under GL 14 and GL 19 (provided the conditions are met), which are (i) general coordination on delivery and provision of humanitarian aid or shipments; (ii) administrative issues involving importation of goods; (iii) attendance at donor coordination meetings; (iv) sharing descriptions of projects; (v) coordination with regard to travel or project locations; (vi) participation in technical working groups; and (vii) sharing of office space.
FAQs 959, 960, and 961 clarify authorized support for healthcare facilities, health care workers, teachers, and the municipal water system located in Afghanistan. In particular, FAQ 959 states that under GL 14, GL 15, and GL 19, providing support to public hospitals, such as the provision of health services, technical support, and institutional deliveries, as well as payments directly to healthcare workers, that would otherwise be prohibited are authorized subject to the conditions of the GLs.
GL 20 & FAQs 991 through 997
GL 20 authorizes, to the extent required, all transactions involving Afghanistan or governing institutions in Afghanistan that would otherwise be prohibited by OFAC-administered sanctions on the Taliban or the Haqqani Network, including entities in which they own a 50% or more interest, subject to certain exceptions. GL 20 does not permit financial transfers to the Taliban or Haqqani Network, or any blocked individuals that are in leadership roles of governing institutions in Afghanistan, other than for the purpose of effecting the payment of taxes, fees, or import duties, or the purchase of permits, licensing, or public utility services, provided that such payments do not relate to luxury items or services. FAQ 994 defines “luxury items and services” and FAQ 992 provides examples of the types of transactions generally authorized by GL 20.
The authorization in GL 20 may overlap with existing authorizations in Afghanistan-related GL 14, GL 15, GL 16, GL 17, GL 18, and GL 19 (see our previous blogs on these GLs here and here). GL 20 may provide a broader authorization than these former GLs and FAQ 996 provides that, where appropriate, US persons can rely on the authorization in GL 20 instead of the narrower authorizations in the previous GLs. GL 20 does not lift sanctions on the Taliban or the Haqqani Network. FAQ 997 emphasizes that the United States has not lifted sanctions on the Taliban or the Haqqani Network. Both remain designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224. In FAQ 991, OFAC clarifies GL 20 was designed to authorize the activities necessary to support these basic human needs, including activities necessary to sustain social services such as health and education, preserve community systems, and promote livelihoods and social cohesion.