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‘Dangerous turning point’: Taliban hammered at UNSC meet on Afghanistan

NEW DELHI: Members of the UN Security Council on Friday made it clear the world community will not accept any government forcibly imposed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, even as India called for the dismantling of terror safe havens and sanctuaries in Pakistan.

A meeting of the Security Council held under the Indian presidency to discuss the situation in Afghanistan was given a grim briefing on the fallout of the Taliban’s massive campaign of violence and attacks by Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special representative, who said the country was at a “dangerous turning point”.

Most of the representatives of the 15 permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council strongly opposed any military takeover by the Taliban, and the representatives of France and the US said further exemptions from sanctions on Taliban leaders, especially for travel, would be affected by failure to end violence.

India holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for August and played a key role in organising the meeting on Afghanistan.

TS Tirumurti, India’s envoy to the UN, listed the surge in Taliban attacks and violence, including the suicide assault on the home of the Afghan defence minister and the killing of Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui, and said the rapid deterioration of security poses a “serious threat to regional peace and stability”.

In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Tirumurti said: “For enduring peace in Afghanistan, terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries in the region must be dismantled immediately and terrorist supply chains disrupted. It needs to be ensured that Afghanistan’s neighbours and the region are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism.”

He called for “zero tolerance” for all forms of terrorism, and said it is equally important to ensure Afghan soil isn’t used by terror groups to threaten or attack any other country. “Those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable,” he added.

The world community should “decide on actions that would help bring a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, and ensure the Taliban “engage in negotiations in good faith, eschew the path of violence, severe ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, and fully commit itself towards reaching a political solution”, Tirumurti added.

He also reiterated New Delhi’s support for an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process that leads to a political settlement that protects the gains of the past two decades and preserves the rights of women, children and minorities.

The Afghan envoy to the UN, Ghulam M Isaczai, was more scathing in his criticism of Pakistan’s role in backing the Taliban, which he said, was being assisted in acts of barbarism by “foreign fighters from trans-national terrorist networks”.

The Taliban have launched more than 5,500 attacks since mid-April with support from more than 10,000 foreign fighters representing 20 groups, including al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Islamic State.

“Importantly, the Taliban continue to enjoy a safe haven in and supply and logistics line extended to their war machine from Pakistan. Graphic reports and video of Taliban fighters congregating close to the Durand Line to enter Afghanistan, fund-raising events, transfer of dead bodies for mass burial and treatment of injured Taliban in Pakistani hospitals are emerging and are widely available,” Isaczai said.

“Consistent with the agreement of the leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan in Tashkent last month, we urge Pakistan to help with removing and dismantling of Taliban sanctuaries and supply lines and establish with us a joint monitoring and verification mechanism to make the fight against terrorism and international efforts for peace effective and credible,” he added.

Barbara Woodward, the UK envoy to the UN, said the Taliban must realise there will be consequences if it continues its military offensive. “There can be no military solution to this conflict. For our part, the UK will not recognise a Taliban government that comes to power by force,” she said.

The US representative condemned the increase in violent attacks and said: “The Taliban must hear from the international community that we will not accept a military takeover of Afghanistan or a return of the Taliban’s Islamic emirate. The Taliban will be isolated and an international pariah if they choose that path, which would most certainly push the country to further violence and destruction.”

The US representative listed five principles for a negotiated and inclusive solution, including inclusive governance, the right of the Afghan people to elect political leaders, protection of human rights, a commitment to counter-terrorism and no safe havens for foreign terrorists, and adherence to international and humanitarian laws.

Special representative Deborah Lyons asked the Security Council to issue an unambiguous statement calling for cessation of attacks on cities, and countries in contact with the Taliban’s political commission should insist on a ceasefire and a resumption of negotiations. The exemptions to the UN travel ban on Taliban leaders is for the sole purpose of peace negotiations, and further extension during a review on September 20 “must be predicated on real progress in peace”, she said.

Following the statements by the 15 members of the Security Council, the meeting was adjourned for consultations behind closed doors.

Desk Team