Would the UN really recognize the Taliban?

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The short and less charitable answer to the title question is probably, are you freaking kidding me? For a bit more nuance, we can look to the observations of someone with direct experience in the matter. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley gave an interview to the Washington Examiner this week, discussing what we can probably expect from the United Nations in terms of how they will treat what’s left of the nation of Afghanistan once the United States is fully out of the nation. One might expect an international oversight body to condemn and reject a group of terrorists and terrorist enablers out of hand. But as Haley points out, if that’s your point of view you probably haven’t been paying much attention to the United Nations for the past couple of decades. Of course, they’re going to recognize them, even if they cluck their tongues a bit at them first.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Washington Examiner Tuesday that she believes the U.N. may recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, citing the organization’s “horrendous track record” of legitimizing “the world’s worst regimes.”

Haley, who served as ambassador to the U.N. under the Trump administration, told the Washington Examiner that she hopes the U.N. will refuse any attempts by the Taliban to represent Afghanistan internationally, calling the terror group “barbaric.”

“The U.N. should refuse to allow the Taliban to represent Afghanistan,” Haley said. “The U.N. already has a terrible track record when it comes to giving human rights abusers a seat at the table, but this would be a new low. A barbaric group like the Taliban that harbors some of the world’s worst terrorists and sets off suicide bombs in marketplaces has no place in an organization founded to maintain international peace and security.”

Haley went on to detail the UN’s “horrendous track record” when it comes to not only recognizing serial human rights abusers but putting them on the Human Rights Council. Currently, two of those seats are held by Russia and China. As you will recall, those are also two nations that will still be maintaining their embassies in Afghanistan and have no problem with the Taliban taking charge.

Perhaps the first question to ask the United Nations would be whether or not the Taliban actually represent a legitimate “government” of what’s left of the nation of Afghanistan to begin with. Some may argue that when the United States first invaded and kicked out the Taliban, there shouldn’t have been a recognized government either, and that’s true. But the Americans never declared themselves to be the government of Afghanistan. Instead, we worked with the locals to help them hold elections and build their own government. While you might argue over how much of the country it ever really “represented,” it was at least a governmental structure elected by and composed of Afghans.

Not so with the Taliban. They overthrew an elected government entirely and simply declared that they were now in charge. The fact that the U.S. State Department has been “negotiating” with them to obtain their permission to escape hasn’t helped matters because that only seems to legitimize their claim to authority. That is likely a factor that the UN will take into account moving forward.

The Examiner describes Nikki Haley’s view of the possibility that the UN might refuse the Taliban a seat at the table as “skeptical.” Frankly, that seems overly generous. They’re already making some noises about how the Taliban “must” respect women’s rights and not allow the country to return to being a launching platform for terrorist groups, but that looks like more window dressing than anything else. The seat at the UN that is designated for Afghanistan is currently held by Ghulam M. Isaczai, who was appointed by former President Ashraf Ghani in June of this year. But he can’t even go back to his own country at this point without winding up one head shorter than when he arrived. Don’t be shocked if the Taliban simply announce his replacement soon and the United Nations goes along with it.

Meanwhile, the State Department last night advised any Americans still in the vicinity of the airport gates in Kabul to get out of the area immediately. Just as a reminder, that airport is the only avenue of egress from the country because the Taliban control all of the border crossings. This development may provide the Taliban with yet another opportunity to demonstrate how much they care about human rights. But the UN will almost certainly ignore this as well.