Afghanistan Speaker Pulls Out of U.N. Meeting Amid Taliban's Recognition Effort

Afghanistan pulled out of delivering the final address Monday at the United Nations General Assembly summit amid the new Taliban government's effort for international recognition, the Associated Press reported.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Durjarric said Afghanistan's currently recognized ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, who represents former President Ashraf Ghani's government, was listed as Afghanistan's speaker. However, the Taliban challenged Isaczai's credentials and asked to represent the country.

Because the challenge could not be heard in time for General Assembly's annual meeting, Durjarric said, the U.N. was "notified Saturday by the Afghan Mission that they would no longer be speaking."

The Taliban has asked U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to no longer recognize the "ousted" Ghani administration and has nominated Mohammad Suhail Shaheen as the new U.N. representative, the AP said.

"We have all the requirements needed for recognition of a government," Shaheen said last week. "So we hope the U.N., as a neutral world body, recognize the current government of Afghanistan."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.N. General Assembly
Afghanistan's currently recognized U.N. ambassador decided not to deliver the final address at the General Assembly summit on Monday. Above, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, in a prerecorded message, addresses the General Assembly on Saturday. AFP via Getty Images/KENA BETANCUR

All challenges to credentials must be heard by the assembly's credentials committee, which generally meets in November and did not convene earlier to hear the Taliban's challenge.

When the Taliban last ruled from 1996 to 2001, the U.N. refused to recognize their government and instead gave Afghanistan's seat to the previous, warlord-dominated government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. It was Rabbani's government that brought Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to Afghanistan from Sudan in 1996.

The Taliban have said they want international recognition and financial help to rebuild the war-battered country. But the makeup of the new Taliban government poses a dilemma for the United Nations. Several of the interim ministers—including Muttaqi—are on the U.N.'s so-called blacklist of international terrorists and funders of terrorism.

When the credentials committee members do meet, they could use Taliban recognition as leverage to press for a more inclusive government that guarantees human rights, especially for girls who were barred from going to school during their previous rule, and women who weren't able to work.

The committee's members are the United States, Russia, China, Bahama, Bhutan, Chile, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Sweden.

Afghanistan U.N. Ambassador
Ghulam Isaczai, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during a news conference at U.N. headquarters on August 6. Manuel Elías/United Nations Photo via AP