Sohail Shaheen, who until recently was one of the few known faces of the Taliban, will be given a new position: Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Nations. At least, if it is up to the government in Kabul.
The Taliban sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that Shaheen be allowed to enter New York. But the question is whether he will allow Shaheen to enter the podium on Monday, when Afghanistan’s turn comes during the General Assembly.
It seems simple: the Taliban have power in Afghanistan, which hardly anyone can dispute, and therefore the radical Islamic movement also has the right to speak on behalf of that country at the annual meeting of world leaders in New York.
But it is not that easy. Guterres is not the one who decides who can represent a country, as the Accreditation Committee does. It is uncertain whether this panel, which includes the United States, China and Russia, will make a decision before Monday.
This decision should be a technical matter, but international politics plays a role in the background. So it is perhaps no coincidence that on Tuesday the Taliban announced a number of new ministers. Among them are technocrats and representatives of ethnic minorities, but not women.
It’s not automatic that a new system hits the stage in New York. When the Taliban were in power earlier, from 1996 to 2001, the ousted government continued to represent the country. Even today, there is still an Afghan ambassador to the United Nations appointed by the former president in New York. It is possible that this Izakzai boy just spoke on Monday.
The United States is open to talks with Kabul
However, the Taliban’s chances this time around look better than they did 25 years ago. At the time, both the United States and Russia were vehemently opposed to recognizing their rule, one of the reasons why the new regime was unable to gain a foothold within the United Nations. The Taliban themselves were more isolated at the time.
Now Russia and China are quite sympathetic to the new government, and even the United States has said they are open to talks with Kabul. In the meantime, Afghanistan can use support from the United Nations. The World Food Program and Guterres have already warned of food scarcity.
Last time in the list of speakers
Afghanistan is not the only country whose representation is still up in the air. Similar issues about Myanmar and Guinea. The three countries, along with the United Nations’ Black Sheep and North Korea, were at the top of the list of speakers at the General Assembly on Monday afternoon.
Monday may be too early for the Taliban, but Shaheen may speak in New York next year. In any case, the chance seems small as things will now go as before with Cambodia representation. After neighboring Vietnam overthrew the Khmer Rouge’s dictatorship there in 1979, the United States and China did not recognize the new government. Thus the Khmer Rouge continued to represent the country at the United Nations for many years, until 1993.
This time the Taliban can count on recognition
What countries will recognize the new regime in Afghanistan? The United States shouldn’t know anything about the Taliban, but China, Russia and Pakistan, among other countries, think otherwise.
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