UN: Afghanistan’s Taliban want to address General Assembly

New York, September 22 (BNA): Who will represent Afghanistan at the United Nations this month? It is a complex question with many political ramifications.

The international organization said the Taliban, the country’s new rulers for weeks, are defying the credentials of their former ambassador to the United Nations and want to speak at this week’s high-level General Assembly meeting of world leaders.

The question facing UN officials now comes a little more than a month after the Taliban, which the United States and its allies expelled from Afghanistan after 9/11, have returned to power as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw from the country at the end of August. The Taliban stunned the world by seizing territory with astonishing speed and little resistance from the US-trained Afghan army. The Western-backed government collapsed on August 15.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received a call on September 15 from the currently accredited Afghan ambassador, Ghulam Isakzai, with the list of the Afghan delegation for the assembly’s 76th annual session, the AP reported.

Five days later, Guterres received another call with the letterhead of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, signed by “Amir Khan Mottaki” as “Foreign Minister”, requesting participation in the United Nations meeting of world leaders.

Dujarric said Mottaki said in the letter that former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had been “overthrown” as of August 15 and that countries around the world “no longer recognize him as president”, thus Izakzai no longer represents Afghanistan.

The UN spokesman said the Taliban had said they were nominating Mohammed Sohail Shaheen as the new permanent representative of the United Nations. He was the Taliban spokesman during the peace negotiations in Qatar.

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Senior US State Department officials said they were aware of the Taliban’s request – the US is a member of the UN Credentials Committee – but did not anticipate how that committee would rule. However, one official said the committee will “take some time to deliberate,” noting that the Taliban envoy would not be able to speak at the General Assembly at this session at least during the week of high-ranking leaders.

In cases of disagreement over seats at the United Nations, the General Assembly’s nine-member Credentials Committee must meet to make a decision. The two letters were sent to the Committee after consultation with the office of the President of the General Assembly, Abdullah Shahid. Committee members are the United States, Russia, China, the Bahamas, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Sweden.

Afghanistan is scheduled to deliver the final speech on the last day of the high-level meeting on September 27. It was not clear who would speak if the committee met and the Taliban were given a seat in Afghanistan.

When the Taliban last ruled from 1996 to 2001, the United Nations refused to recognize its government and instead gave Afghanistan’s seat to the former warlord-dominated government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was eventually killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. Rabbani’s government was that brought Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, to Afghanistan from Sudan in 1996.

The Taliban said they wanted international recognition and financial assistance to rebuild the war-torn country. But the formation of the new Taliban government poses a dilemma for the United Nations. Several interim ministers are on the United Nations’ so-called blacklist of international terrorists and terrorist financiers.

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Members of the Credentials Committee could also use recognition of the Taliban as leverage to push for a more inclusive government that guarantees human rights, particularly for girls who were prevented from attending school during their previous rule, and women who were unable to work.

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