Taliban face uphill battle in efforts to speak at UN meeting

International

A pedestrian passes outside the United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The new rulers of Afghanistan have an uphill battle in their efforts to be recognized in time to address other world leaders at the United Nations this year.

The Taliban are challenging the credentials of the ambassador from Afghanistan’s former government and asking to speak at the General Assembly’s high-level meeting of world leaders this week, according to a letter sent to the United Nations.

The decision now rests with a U.N. committee that generally meets in November and will issue a ruling “in due course,” the General Assembly’s spokeswoman said Wednesday.

U.N. officials are confronting this dilemma just over a month after the Taliban, ejected from Afghanistan by the United States and its allies after 9/11, swept back into power by taking over territory with surprising speed as U.S. forces prepared to withdraw from the country at the end of August. The Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15.

In cases of disputes over seats at the United Nations, the General Assembly’s nine-member credentials committee must meet to make a decision. Letters from Afghanistan’s currently recognized U.N. ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, who represents the former government, and from Taliban Foreign Minister Ameer Khan Muttaqi, are before the committee, assembly spokeswoman Monica Grayley said.

“Only the committee can decide when to meet,” Grayley said.

The committee’s members are the United States, Russia, China, Bahama, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Sweden.

Afghanistan is listed as the final speaker of the ministerial meeting on Monday, Sept. 27, and if there no decision by then, Isaczai, Afghanistan’s currently recognized U.N. ambassador, will give the address.

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

The Taliban have said they want international recognition and financial help to rebuild the war-battered country. But the makeup of the new Taliban government poses a dilemma for the United Nations. Several of the interim ministers — including Muttaqi — are on the U.N.’s so-called blacklist of international terrorists and funders of terrorism.

Credentials committee members could also use Taliban recognition as leverage to press for a more inclusive government that guarantees human rights, especially for girls who were barred from going to school during their previous rule, and women who weren’t able to work.

The Taliban said they were nominating a new U.N. permanent representative, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, the U.N. spokesman said. He has been a spokesman for the Taliban during peace negotiations in Qatar.

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