Taliban eye seat at UN as Pakistan, Qatar favour mainstreaming terror group

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan last time between 1996 and 2001, they lacked international support. Only three countries recognised them. Two of them, Saudi Arabia and the UAE later withdrew their recognition over the Taliban’s patronage of al-Qaeda. Only Taliban’s ‘friend-philosopher-guide’ Pakistan continued to back their regime
It is only in this context that they are being termed Taliban 2.0. They are again making moves to get international recognition. Qatar, which hosted Taliban’s talks with the United States, and Pakistan are making every possible endeavour to mainstream the terror group.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session is underway. The Taliban have claimed right to represent Afghanistan at the UN. They have written a letter to the UN seeking to address world leaders at the UNGA this week in New York City.

The Taliban nominated their spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, who is based in Doha, Qatar, as their representative at the UN in the capacity of Afghanistan's UN ambassador.

A UN panel, called the Credentials Committee, has to take a decision on the Taliban’s demand made in the letter sent to it on Monday. It is a panel of nine members including the US, Russia and China.

The Taliban have asked Suhail Shaheen to speak to world leaders for their inclusion as a UN member and the ‘right’ to address the UNGA.

It is unlikely that the Taliban will get a chance to address the UNGA 2021. The current session ends on September 27 and the Credentials Committee is unlikely to meet before the end of the UNGA session.

One of the two strong backers of the Taliban at international forum is Qatar, which on Tuesday urged world leaders at the UN meeting to engage with the Taliban. This backing came from Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

In what bordered on warning of consequences if they don't, he said, “Boycotting them [the Taliban] would only lead to polarisation and reactions, whereas dialogue could be fruitful.”

In the past couple of years, Qatar has emerged as the diplomatic mouthpiece of the Taliban. It hosted peace deal talks that led to a US-Taliban agreement in 2020 for complete withdrawal of US-led Nato forces.

The Taliban’s designated UN ambassador Suhail Shaheen has stayed in Doha, Qatar even after the group captured Afghanistan in mid-August. Qatar has also played the role of a mediator in intra-Afghan negotiations.

Pakistan’s relationship has been extremely intricate with the Taliban. Pakistan supported the Taliban even when it was a ‘partner’ in the US’s war on terror that was directed against the Taliban. After the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Pakistan has used every international platform to champion the cause of Taliban.

At SCO Summi
At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit last week, Pakistan partnered with China to mainstream the Taliban in international affairs. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke almost on the behalf of the Taliban. He said Afghanistan could not “be controlled from outside”.Live TV

Imran Khan appealed for immediate ‘humanitarian’ assistance to the Taliban in ruling Afghanistan. “We must remember that the Afghan government is primarily dependent on foreign aid,” Imran Khan said.

A China Gate
The Taliban’s surprise friend, China’s President Xi Jinping, sought SCO ‘guidance’ to the Taliban for a smooth political transition in Afghanistan. At the SCO, Afghanistan has an ‘observer’ status.

Whether China builds a case for the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan being accorded full membership of the SCO may go a long way in regional and global recognition of the terror group as a legitimate Afghan government.

Pakistan and China have also tried to bring the Taliban onboard for China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Taliban expressed its desire to join the CPEC, which Pakistan and China wanted to expand to parts of Afghanistan.

Close on the heels of its SCO bid to bring the Taliban to the mainstream of international diplomacy, Pakistan demanded that the UN sanctioned terror group be given membership of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

The demand led to cancellation of the Saarc meeting scheduled for September 25 on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York City. The Saarc meeting could have been a showcase event for Pakistan in mainstreaming the Taliban.


The Taliban did not get a membership of the UN during 1996-2001. But the Taliban have now claimed that the current envoy, appointed by the now ousted government, no longer represents Afghanistan.

However, under the rules, Ghulam Isaczai remains Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN. Isaczai will remain Afghanistan’s envoy to the UN until the UN Credentials Committee takes a decision to recognise the Taliban nominee.


Isaczai is likely to address the UNGA on the final day of the session on September 27. His position has become untenable as Ashraf Ghani, the president of the previous Afghanistan government, resigned and fled without making an alternative arrangement. Isaczai is thus representing a government that does not exist.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan last time, the ousted government’s ambassador had, however, stayed on as a UN representative. The Credentials Committee had deferred its decision citing competing claims for the position.

Isaczai’s speech on the final day of the UNGA session may decide whether the Taliban’s dream of occupying a seat at the UN with the backing of Qatar and Pakistan, and tacit support of China is realised so soon or not.