Taliban Seeks to Address U.N. as Legitimate Government of Afghanistan

TOPSHOT - Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (L) gestures as he arrives to hold the first press conference in Kabul on August 17, 2021 following the Taliban stunning takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by Hoshang HASHIMI / AFP) (Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images)
HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, requesting a speaking slot at the U.N. General Assembly for Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who would represent the brutal Islamist regime as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

According to Reuters, which had the first report on the Taliban letter on Tuesday, the initial demand was for Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi to address the General Assembly. Shaheen was apparently the Taliban’s idea of a compromise candidate for the speaking position.

The Afghanistan chair at the General Assembly is currently occupied by Ghulam Isaczai, who was ambassador to the United Nations for the internationally-recognized government that was violently overthrown by the Taliban last month. Isaczai has also asked to speak to the General Assembly.

A Taliban fighter sits in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021.(Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

A Taliban fighter sits in the cockpit of an Afghan Air Force aircraft at the airport in Kabul on August 31, 2021.(Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

An armed Taliban fighter stands guard as Muslim devotees leave after Friday prayers at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque in Kabul on September 3, 2021. (Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP) (Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images)

An armed Taliban fighter stands guard as Muslim devotees leave after Friday prayers at the Pul-e Khishti Mosque in Kabul on September 3, 2021. ( HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images)

The letter sent to Guterres by the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” stated that Isaczai no longer represents Afghanistan, since he was appointed by President Ashraf Ghani, who has been “ousted” so the international community should “no longer recognize him as president.”

The decision on who, if anyone, should be allowed to speak for Afghanistan at the General Assembly will be made by the credentials committee, whose members include the United States, China, and Russia. 

The Biden administration would be tremendously embarrassed if a Taliban representative addresses the General Assembly, while China and Russia might enjoy moving the Taliban closer to recognition as a legitimate government, in defiance of the Biden team’s frequent vows that they would never achieve such recognition – at least not without sweeping reforms that the Taliban shows absolutely no interest in making.

Guterres indicated through a spokesman that the Taliban letter is authentic. Reuters noted the Secretary-General has been reluctant to formally recognize the Taliban government, since international legitimacy is “the only leverage other countries have to press for inclusive government and respect for rights, particularly for women, in Afghanistan.”

“Until a decision is made by the credentials committee Isaczai will remain in the seat, according to the General Assembly rules. He is currently scheduled to address the final day of the meeting on Sept. 27, but it was not immediately clear if any countries might object in the wake of the Taliban letter,” Reuters observed.

The BBC on Wednesday suggested it was “unlikely” the credentials committee would meet to consider the Taliban’s demands until after the 2021 General Assembly concludes on Monday.

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