Sanctions relief will be based on Taliban’s behaviour, says U.S.

‘If they harbour terrorists or fail to uphold rights, sanctions will stay in place’

September 08, 2021 11:23 pm | Updated 11:55 pm IST - Washington

Track record:   Nawaz Sharif and Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, right, in Islamabad on August 26, 1999.

Track record: Nawaz Sharif and Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, right, in Islamabad on August 26, 1999.

Hours after the Taliban announced a government in Kabul that included UN designated terrorists, the U.S. mission to the UN has said the UN Security Council will base any decisions on de-listing terrorists on the Taliban’s human rights policies. The U.S. position is of particular importance to India, which is not only a close neighbour of Afghanistan but also the head of the 1988 UNSC Sanctions Committee, the ‘Taliban Sanctions Committee’.

Among those in the newly formed Taliban government are Prime Minister Hasan Akhund — a UN designated terrorist — and Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is listed as a terrorist by both the UN and the U.S.

“We stand by Resolution 2513. We are watching the Taliban's actions closely,” a U.S.-UN mission spokesperson told The Hindu via email on Tuesday.

Resolution 2513, adopted by the UNSC in March 2020 when the Trump administration was representing the U.S., supported, in principle, the de-listing of individuals to facilitate an intra-Afghan dialogue and peace.

The resolution linked a review of the listing decision to the actions of the Taliban in supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“The Security Council will take into account any behaviour that disregards the human rights of Afghans as it reviews the travel ban exemption and the status of designations. We continuously review all UN sanctions programmes and are prepared to adjust them in light of evolving circumstances. Needless to say, however, should the Taliban support or harbour terrorists who threaten the security of the international community, or fail to uphold human rights in Afghanistan, including for women and girls, sanctions will remain in place,” the mission spokesperson said on Tuesday.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN T.S. Tirumurti said no requests had been discussed as of Wednesday morning.

“There have been no delisting requests yet. The sanctions committee will take a decision on the requests if and when they are made. It is premature for me at this stage to predict what the Committee will decide,” he told The Hindu on Wednesday.

India is following a ‘wait and watch’ approach with the Taliban, including on matters related to the UNSC. Committees are based on consensus, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters in Washington last Friday when asked about whether the Security Council would de-list Taliban terrorists.

“Don’t forget that we are one out of 15 [UNSC] members and we have to also see what the rest of the international community is saying,” he said, adding that no de-listing requests had been discussed.

The recognition of the Taliban is “a matter that’s done by Member States, not by us,” Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General, said, as reported by the Press Trust of India. The 1988 Committee is expected to meet in mid-September. This roughly coincides with the September 17 expiration of the UN Assistance Mission In Afghanistan (UNAMA).

U.S. policy

The U.S. government, across its branches, appears not to have a clear policy yet and is watching the evolving situation in Afghanistan as well as other countries’ reaction (e.g., China) to the developments.

Asked whether he is concerned about China funding the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said that China, like other countries, will try and work out an arrangement with the group. “Well, China has a real problem with the Taliban, so they're going to try to work out some arrangement with the Taliban, I'm sure — as does Pakistan, as does Russia, as does Iran,” he said. “ They're all trying to figure out, what do they do now. So it will be interesting to see what happens.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Doha on a visit, said the U.S. would be “looking very, very carefully” at whether the Taliban were living up to their commitments (such as upholding human rights of Afghans, especially women and girls, and allowing free travel).

Mr. Blinken is expected to face tough questions — especially from Republicans — on the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, when he appears in front of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee next week.

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