Ahmad Zia Agha

Ahmad Zia Agha is a U.S.- and U.N.-sanctioned Taliban senior leader.Ian Talley, Mengqi Sun, and Margherita Stancati, “Sanctioned Taliban Financier Holds Leadership Post at Afghan Central Bank,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sanctioned-taliban-financier-tapped-to-help-lead-afghan-central-bank-11647003720. Following the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan government on August 15, 2021, Agha was named the first deputy governor of the Afghan Central Bank in October 2021.“Taliban declares ‘war is over’ as president and diplomats flee Kabul,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/talibans-rapid-advance-across-afghanistan-2021-08-10/; Ian Talley, Mengqi Sun, and Margherita Stancati, “Sanctioned Taliban Financier Holds Leadership Post at Afghan Central Bank,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sanctioned-taliban-financier-tapped-to-help-lead-afghan-central-bank-11647003720.

Agha has undertaken various financial roles within the Taliban. In 2008, Agha distributed funds to Taliban commanders in Afghanistan as well as transferred money to individuals outside of the country who were associated with the Taliban.“AHMAD ZIA AGHA,” United Nations Security Council, January 6, 2012, https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/sanctions/1988/materials/summaries/individual/ahmad-zia-agha. In 2009, Agha took on the official role of Taliban finance officer and continued to distribute money to Taliban commanders. According to the United Nations, Agha transferred tens of thousands of dollars to Taliban shadow provincial governors. As Taliban finance officer, Agha was in close contact with the Taliban’s shura treasurer who entrusted Agha with hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund improvised explosive device (IED) operations.“AHMAD ZIA AGHA,” United Nations Security Council, January 6, 2012, https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/sanctions/1988/materials/summaries/individual/ahmad-zia-agha.

Agha quickly rose within the Taliban ranks, and in 2010, he was named the leader of the Taliban’s military shura, which directed Taliban military operations in western Afghanistan.“AHMAD ZIA AGHA,” United Nations Security Council, January 6, 2012, https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/sanctions/1988/materials/summaries/individual/ahmad-zia-agha. Given Agha’s prominent role within the financial and military operations of the Taliban, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Agha as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on June 21, 2011.“Designation of Four Individuals Pursuant to Executive Order 13224,” Federal Register, June 28, 2011, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2011/06/28/2011-16185/designation-of-four-individuals-pursuant-to-executive-order-13224. The U.N. Security Council followed suit and designated Agha on January 6, 2012, with the European Union designating Agha a few years later on March 7, 2017.“AHMAD ZIA AGHA,” United Nations Security Council, January 6, 2012, https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/sanctions/1988/materials/summaries/individual/ahmad-zia-agha; “COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION (CFSP) 2017/416,” Official Journal of the European Union, September 3, 2017, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32017D0416&rid=2.

On August 6, 2021, the Taliban began an offensive against major Afghan cities.Susannah George and Ezzatullah Mehrdad, “Taliban fighters overrun an Afghan provincial capital for the first time since withdrawal of foreign forces,” Washington Post, August 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/06/afghanistan-taliban-nimruz/. By August 16, the Taliban laid siege to the presidential palace and took complete control of Kabul, after which the Taliban declared the war in Afghanistan had ended.“Taliban declares ‘war is over’ as president and diplomats flee Kabul,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/talibans-rapid-advance-across-afghanistan-2021-08-10/. On September 7, 2021, the Taliban announced the official appointments within their caretaker government. Mullah Muhammad Hassan was named prime minister, and Abdul Ghani Baradar was named co-deputy prime minister along with Abdul Salam Hanafi. The government is exclusively male, with many positions filled with veterans from their hardline movement in the early nineties.Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek, “Taliban Appoint Stalwarts to Top Government Posts,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/asia/taliban-women-protest-kabul-afghanistan.html; Kathy Gannon, “Taliban form all-male Afghan government of old guard members,” Associated Press, September 8, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-pakistan-afghanistan-arrests-islamabad-d50b1b490d27d32eb20cc11b77c12c87. Sometime in October 2021, Agha was named the first deputy governor of the Afghan Central Bank, serving under Hajji Muhammad Idris.Ian Talley, Mengqi Sun, and Margherita Stancati, “Sanctioned Taliban Financier Holds Leadership Post at Afghan Central Bank,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sanctioned-taliban-financier-tapped-to-help-lead-afghan-central-bank-11647003720.

In his new role, Agha is the second highest ranking official within the central bank. Additionally, Agha is in control of the authority that oversees Afghanistan’s financial sector which includes regulations to combat the financing of terrorism and anti-money-laundering. Given Agha’s international designations, the Wall Street Journal has reported that western policy makers are weary about providing the Taliban-run government with access to foreign financing. Access to foreign financing would include billions of dollars of funds at the World Bank and $7 billion in foreign currency reserves held in the United States.Ian Talley, Mengqi Sun, and Margherita Stancati, “Sanctioned Taliban Financier Holds Leadership Post at Afghan Central Bank,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sanctioned-taliban-financier-tapped-to-help-lead-afghan-central-bank-11647003720.

The U.S. government has sought several conditions from the Afghan Central Bank—including operating independently from the Taliban government, led by technocrats, and third-party oversight—before releasing some of the reserve funds through the central bank. Afghanistan Central Bank officials have stated that they are committed to complying with those conditions as well as international regulations regarding anti-money-laundering and counter-financing terrorism. Although Agha was designated by OFAC, a general license issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in February 2022 allows transactions with Afghanistan’s governing institutions, even if they are led by sanctioned individuals.Ian Talley, Mengqi Sun, and Margherita Stancati, “Sanctioned Taliban Financier Holds Leadership Post at Afghan Central Bank,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sanctioned-taliban-financier-tapped-to-help-lead-afghan-central-bank-11647003720.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Taliban
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, regional, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Deobandi, Islamist, jihadist, Pashtun, Salafi, Sunni, Wahhabi
Position(s):
First deputy governor of the Afghan Central Bank

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 after previously leading a violent insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is closely affiliated with al-Qaeda.

  • Designations

United States

United Nations

European Union

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