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UN: Afghanistan’s Taliban want to deal with General Assembly

UNITED NATIONS

Who should represent Afghanistan at the United Nations this month? It’s a complex question with plenty of political implications.

The Taliban, the country’s new rulers for a matter of weeks, are challenging the credentials of their country’s former U.N. ambassador and need to talk at the General Assembly’s high-level meeting of world leaders in the week, the international body says.

The question now facing U.N. officials comes just over a month after the Taliban, ejected from Afghanistan by the US and its allies after 9/11, swept back to power as U.S. forces prepared to withdraw from the country at the end of August. The Taliban stunned the globe by taking territory with surprising speed and tiny resistance from the U.S.-trained Afghan military. The Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received communication on Sept. 15 from the currently accredited Afghan Ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, with the list of Afghanistan’s delegation for the assembly’s 76th annual session.

Five days later, Guterres received another communication with the letterhead “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” signed by “Ameer Khan Muttaqi” as “Minister of Foreign Affairs,” requesting to participate within the U.N. gathering of world leaders.

Muttaqi said within the letter that former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani was “ousted” as of Aug. 15 which countries across the globe “no longer recognize him as president,” and thus Isaczai does not represent Afghanistan, Dujarric said.

The Taliban said it had been 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.

Senior U.S. State Department officials said they were conscious of the Taliban’s request — the US may be a member of the U.N. credentials committee — but they might not predict how that panel might rule. However, one among the officials said the committee “would take a while to deliberate,” suggesting the Taliban’s envoy wouldn’t be able to speak at the overall Assembly at this session at least during the high-level leaders’ week.

In cases of disputes over seats at the United Nations, the overall Assembly’s nine-member credentials committee must meet to form a choice. Both letters are sent to the committee after consultations with General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid’s office. The committee’s members are the US, Russia, China, Bahama, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, sierra leone, and Sweden.

Afghanistan is scheduled to give the last speech on the final day of the high-level meeting on Sept. 27. It wasn’t clear who would speak if the committee met and therefore the Taliban got Afghanistan’s seat.

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

The Taliban have said they need 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 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 women who were barred from getting to school during their previous rule, and women who weren’t able to work.

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