Committee to Decide if Taliban Can Address World Leaders at United Nations

A United Nations committee has been tasked with deciding whether Afghanistan's interim government will be permitted to speak at the General Assembly's high-level meeting of world leaders this week, according to a spokesperson.

The Taliban are contesting the credentials of the ambassador from the government that fell to the militant group in August and requesting permission to speak along with other world leaders, they said in a letter to the United Nations.

The dilemma comes just a month out from the Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan, seizing territory as the United States and NATO forces prepared to withdrawal.

"Only the committee can decide when to meet," assembly spokeswoman Monica Grayley said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

UN General Assembly Taliban
A United Nations committee is currently debating whether to allow the Taliban to speak at the general assembly. Above, a pedestrian walks past the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 21, 2021. John Minchillo, Pool/AP Photo

The Western-backed government collapsed on August 15.

In cases of disputes over seats at the United Nations, the General Assembly's nine-member credentials committee must meet to make a decision. Letters from Afghanistan's currently recognized U.N. ambassador, Ghulam Isaczai, who represents the former government, and from Taliban Foreign Minister Ameer Khan Muttaqi, are before the committee.

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

Afghanistan is listed as the final speaker of the ministerial meeting on Monday, September 27, and if there no decision by then, Isaczai, Afghanistan's currently recognized U.N. ambassador, will give the address.

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 9/11, 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.

Credentials committee members could also 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 Taliban said they were nominating a new U.N. permanent representative, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, the U.N. spokesman said. He has been a spokesman for the Taliban during peace negotiations in Qatar.