U.S. wants aid to Afghanistan to continue despite sanctions on Taliban

Crowds of people show their documents to U.S. troops outside the airport in Kabul

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States is taking steps to allow humanitarian work to continue in Afghanistan despite U.S. sanctions on the Taliban, which seized power 11 days ago.

A U.S. Treasury Department official said President Joe Biden's administration has contacted humanitarian partners in Afghanistan in recent days about their continued ability to provide aid.

"We are taking steps to allow for humanitarian aid to continue in a way that benefits the Afghan people," the official said, adding that Biden discussed the humanitarian assistance with fellow G7 leaders.

The Taliban are designated as a terrorist group by the United States. The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets of the group and bars Americans from dealing with them, including the contribution of funds, goods or services.

While U.S. sanctions frequently allow for humanitarian exemptions, critics say heavy sanctions regimes such as those imposed on Iran and Venezuela can deter humanitarian groups from working in a country out of fear of running afoul of Washington.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday that all countries must ensure that any sanctions or counterterrorism measures comply with international humanitarian and rights law, and do not impede the impartial humanitarian activities.

The United Nations has stressed that it is determined to stay and deliver humanitarian help in Afghanistan. But a U.N. appeal for $1.3 billion in aid to reach 16 million people this year is only 39% funded.

"It's important to note that across Afghanistan supplies are constrained and will need to be replenished. This will continue to be a challenge due to limited funding and of course the logistical challenges," Dujarric said.

A Taliban offensive - as foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan after a 20-year war - culminated with the capture of the capital Kabul on Aug. 15. U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The Taliban have said they will respect human rights and will not allow terrorists to operate from the country. The group has also encouraged aid organizations to continue their work, saying aid was welcome as long as it was not used as a means of political influence over Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)