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UN, Afghan Taliban Work on Interactions09/26 10:47

   

   (AP) -- It's been little more than a month since Kalashnikov-toting Taliban 
fighters in their signature heavy beards, hightop sneakers and shalwar kameezes 
descended on the Afghan capital and cemented their takeover. Now they're vying 
for a seat in the club of nations and seeking what no country has given them as 
they attempt to govern for a second time: international recognition of their 
rule.

   The Taliban wrote to the United Nations requesting to address the U.N. 
General Assembly meeting of leaders that is underway in New York. They argue 
they have all the requirements needed for recognition of a government. The U.N. 
has effectively responded to the Taliban's request by signaling: Not so fast.

   Afghanistan, which joined the U.N. in 1946 as an early member state, is 
scheduled to speak last at the General Assembly leaders' session on Monday. 
With no meeting yet held by the U.N. committee that decides challenges to 
credentials, it appears almost certain that Afghanistan's current ambassador 
will give the address this year -- or that no one will at all.

   The U.N. can withhold or bestow formal acknowledgement on the Taliban, and 
use this as crucial leverage to exact assurances on human rights, girls' access 
to education and political concessions. This is where the power -- and 
relevance, even -- of the 76-year-old world body still holds.

   Afghanistan is a good, and perhaps extreme, representative case study of 
precisely why the United Nations was founded in the aftermath of World War II, 
said Rohinton Medhora, president of the Center for International Governance 
Innovation in Canada.

   "If you're the U.N. and you want to represent the family of nations, then 
you want absolutely everyone of the family there -- even you know, the distant 
cousin that not everyone's proud of," he said. "So the U.N. needs Afghanistan 
and countries to demonstrate the value of many of its operations."

   In Afghanistan, the United Nations can deploy the weight of its vast aid and 
development programs to show just how crucial its often underfunded agencies 
are in providing stability and security. The country is facing multiple 
humanitarian crises and near-total poverty due to fallout from the political 
situation.

   There are already growing calls for aid to be contingent on ensuring girls' 
access to education. Despite promises to be inclusive and open, the Taliban 
have yet to allow older girls back to school, have curtailed local media 
freedoms and returned to brutal practices like publicly hanging dead bodies in 
city squares.

   "Taliban does not represent the will of the Afghan people," Afghanistan's 
currently accredited ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Nasir Andisha, told The 
Associated Press.

   If the United Nations recognizes the Taliban's claim to power, Andisha said, 
then it sends a corrosive message to others -- be it in Yemen or in Myanmar -- 
that they can take up guns, create violence, join with U.S.-designated 
terrorist groups.

   "I think for the world, for the United Nations, it's time to use this as a 
leverage," Andisha said.

   The Taliban's appointed U.N. representative, Suhail Shaheen, a former 
negotiator and political spokesman, told The Associated Press that his 
government should be admitted into the club of nations and that "all borders, 
territory and major cities of Afghanistan are in our control."

   "We have support of our people and because of their support, we were able to 
continue a successful struggle for independence of our country which culminated 
in our independence," he said. "We have all the requirements needed for 
recognition of a government. So we hope the UN as an neutral World Body 
recognize the current government of Afghanistan."

   More than a dozen ministers in the all-Taliban Cabinet are on a U.N. 
blacklist, including the group's foreign minister, whom Andisha and other 
Afghan diplomats abroad are refusing to speak to.

   Andisha was serving in Geneva under the U.S.-backed government of Ashraf 
Ghani when the president fled Afghanistan Aug. 15 to seek refuge in the United 
Arab Emirates as the Taliban encircled the capital. Ghani's government swiftly 
fell thereafter.

   Andisha is still holding meetings with representatives from countries around 
the world, imploring them to push for the resuscitation of intra-Afghan peace 
talks. He wants the United Nations to make clear that joining its ranks is not 
only about "holding a country under the barrels of your guns and having enough 
population taken hostage."

   Meanwhile, Qatar has urged countries not to boycott the Taliban, and 
Pakistan called on nations to avoid isolating the Taliban, and to incentivize 
them to hold to their promises of renouncing terrorism and being inclusive.

   During the Taliban's repressive time in power in the late 1990's, only 
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recognized their 
legitimacy. During that era, the U.N. refused to recognize their government and 
gave Afghanistan's seat to the previous, warlord-dominated government.

   The group was then ousted from power in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition after 
the 9/11 attacks for harboring al-Qaida.

   The United States, which withdrew all its forces from the country last month 
in a chaotic airlift that ended America's "forever war," says it is critical 
that the international community remains united in ensuring the Taliban meets a 
range of commitments before granting legitimacy or support beyond humanitarian 
aid.

   Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this is the message he delivered to 
the U.N. Security Council and others on the sidelines of the General Assembly 
this week.

   The U.S. has "significant leverage when it comes to the Taliban," State 
Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Friday. "But we have all the more 
leverage when we work in coordination and in harmony with our allies and 
partners around the globe," he added.

   Medhora, of the Center for International Governance Innovation, said the 
U.N. has levers it can use through its various agencies, such as UNICEF, which 
focuses on children, UNHCR, which assists refugees, and the World Food Program, 
all "where the actual work of the U.N. gets done." This is another area where 
the United States has major sway as the the largest donor to the United 
Nations, contributing nearly one-fifth of funding for the body's collective 
budget in 2019, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

   In multiple U.N. speeches this past week, a number of world leaders 
mentioned Afghanistan, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Afghanistan's 
neighbors, such as Pakistan, Iran and Uzbekistan.

   Enayat Najafizada, who runs an independent think tank in Kabul that monitors 
security issues in Afghanistan's provinces, said the U.N. should also 
facilitate negotiations between Afghan groups and bring the various countries 
with a history of meddling in the nation on board for the sake of regional 
security.

   "Without forming an inclusive government, the country will move to a civil 
war," said Najafizada, founder of The Institute of War and Peace Studies.

   Although what comes next for Afghanistan is far from certain, it is clear 
the Taliban do not want to be seen as global pariahs, said Kamal Alam, 
nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

   "They want a seat at the U.N. They want to go to Davos. They like the 
private jet lifestyle," he said, referring to the group's political elite who 
reside in exile in Qatar.

   "But that's only the political leaders. The foot soldiers on the ground, 
there's no such thing as 'the new Taliban'," he said. "There is no new Taliban. 
Everything they're doing is a tactic to get recognition as well as not be 
isolated."

 
 
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