US curbs import of cultural items from Afghanistan

KABUL (Pajhwok): The United States has imposed restrictions on the import of Afghan archaeological and ethnological material. The State Department said curbs on the import of cultural and historical items from Afghanistan were aimed to prevent terrorists from profiting.
However, Al Jazeera reported that experts had expressed concerns about the unintended consequences of the restrictions. The restrictions are aimed to prevent illicitly trafficked materials from entering the US art market and reduce the incentive for the pillage of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.
In a statement, the State Department hoped the move would help combat profit from the sale of the cultural objects by terrorists and criminal outfits. Implemented on an emergency basis, the decree took effect on Friday. It includes restrictions on bringing ceramics, paintings, glass, ivory, ancient textiles, tiles and wood pieces, among others, into the US.
The unilateral action to impose the emergency import restrictions was being initiated because of circumstances in Afghanistan, the State Department explained. “Can the State Department act based on a request of a government that no longer exists?” ancient coin collector and advocate Peter Tompa asked in a post on his blog.
He wrote: “The real question is how these restrictions are going to be enforced and if any material that may be seized will be repatriated to the Taliban once diplomatic relations [with the US] are restored.” The Art Newspaper reported the step could create logistics issues for collectors or curators who already have items on their way to the US as auction houses get ready to sell pieces during Asia Week New York next month.
Last October, a dozen global trade groups pledged not to bring illegal cultural property from Afghanistan to market. They vowed to alert members and others to the risks involved and continue to support law enforcement in publicising news of stolen items to prevent them from entering the market.