Afghan men wait to enter Kabul Bank to withdraw money on Saturday as reassurances from the Afghan president fail to halt the run on the country's biggest bank.
Nervous Afghans pulled more deposits out of the nation's largest bank on Saturday despite assurances from government leaders that their money was safe.
Crowds gathered at Kabul Bank branches around the capital to withdraw U.S. dollar and Afghan currency savings, with customers saying they had lost faith in the bank's solvency following a change in leadership and reports that tens of millions of dollars had been lent to political elites for risky real estate investments.
"Kabul Bank has lost the trust of the people. Even the chairman resigned so all the people are concerned," said Mohammad Nawaz, head of an Afghan aid group who had tried for three hours to withdraw the $15,000 US in his account.
The bank run, which began earlier in the week, could have wide-ranging political repercussions since it handles the pay for Afghan public servants, soldiers and police.
While Afghanistan's central bank is working with Kabul Bank and drawing on its reserves to help deal with the situation, U.S. officials insisted that the United States is not bailing out Kabul Bank.
The deputy commander of the international coalition in Afghanistan said contingency plans were being drawn up to respond in the event of unrest.
"We're prepared to deal with the unexpected," Lt. Gen. Nick Parker said.
Kabul Bank's woes further underscore entrenched problems with cronyism and corruption, with millions of dollars in deposits allegedly lent to relatives and friends of the ruling elite to buy property in financially troubled Dubai.
The Washington Post reported that Afghanistan's central bank had ordered Kabul Bank's newly resigned chairman to hand over $160 million US in Dubai real estate holdings.
The run has continued despite Thursday's reassurances from President Hamid Karzai to anxious customers that every penny of their deposits would be guaranteed by the government.
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