Taliban to UN: Why not let us talk at the General Assembly?

AP Photo/Zabi Karimi

Who legitimately represents the people of Afghanistan? Does anyone? The United Nations has a tough choice to make in the Taliban’s diplomatic challenge made a couple of days ago but reported last night at The Guardian.

Will the UN continue to credential the man who represents the government that fled the country in its collapse? Or do they allow the Taliban to speak at the UN General Assembly even while rounding up and executing dissidents throughout Afghanistan?

Decisions, decisions:

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said secretary general Antonio Guterres received a communication on 15 September from the 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 Amir Khan Muttaqi as minister of foreign affairs, requesting to participate in the UN gathering of world leaders.

Muttaqi said in the letter that former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani was “ousted” as of 15 August and that countries across the world no longer recognise him as president, and therefore Isaczai no longer represented Afghanistan, Dujarric said.

The Taliban said it was nominating a new UN permanent representative, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, Dujarric said.

The Taliban wants an opportunity to address the UNGA as a full partner in global leadership. That would certainly be … interesting. What would they say? They just fired all the women from government posts, they have reopened the Virtue/Vice ministry that perpetrated the worst of its human-rights abuses in the 1996-2001 time frame, and they just put al-Qaeda partner Sirajuddin Haqqani in charge of all their security forces.

Not to mention, of course, that they’re currently hunting down American nationals. Joe Biden might have “turned the page” on Americans stuck in Afghanistan, but the Taliban certainly haven’t, as the Associated Press reported over the weekend. At the American University, administrators had hoped to get 1200 people out before the US pullout but only succeeded in evacuating less than 15% of them. One of the lucky evacuees told CBS News that they knew the Taliban was forcing young girls to become “brides” of Taliban fighters, and knew that they would likely suffer the same fate if they couldn’t get out:

“Everyone knew I was a student there,” said one 19-year-old female student who was able to get out and requested her name not be used, due to security concerns. “I knew I was in danger. I felt like life for me was over. I was so scared,” she told CBS News.

She said she feared repercussions for being a student at an American university and that she had heard stories of the Taliban kidnapping young girls and forcing them to be Taliban brides. “I would rather kill myself than marry the Taliban,” she said.

After Kabul fell to the Taliban in August, she said she received an email from the university informing her that she would be able to board an evacuation flight the next day. Departing with just a backpack holding two changes of clothing, she said she left behind a family she worries is no longer safe. “It felt like it was a nightmare. I still can’t believe it’s happening in my country. It even makes me cry to talk about it now.”

The student said she is grateful to the university for getting her out of the country where she no longer saw a future. “I just want to be in a safe place like Europe, America, Canada — it doesn’t matter. I just want to be in a safe place.”

Does that sound like a regime that “represents” the people of its country?

The UN could make a deal with the Taliban. In exchange for eventual recognition, they will first need to guarantee the exit of anyone wishing to leave their Islamic emirate — Americans, other Westerners, and Afghans at risk for summary executions for collaboration, which have already begun. Next, they have to put an end to their perverse form of sexual trafficking and enslavement. If and when both take place, then perhaps the Taliban can join the rogues’ gallery at the UNGA.

But let’s face it. The other rogues at the UNGA have plenty of motivation to embarrass the US, so the Taliban will eventually get a speaking gig. It may not happen at this meeting, but it will happen at the next one. When it does, the Biden administration will have to decide whether to allow the Taliban representatives to enter the country … and don’t bet on Biden showing any more testicular fortitude than he did last month.