The Taliban’s take-over of Afghanistan threw its position within the international system into chaos. This confusion is particularly apparent in the United Nations (UN) as it adjusts to Afghanistan, one of its early members, fundamentally changing its social and political structure under the Taliban’s government. Consequently, the UN is trying to figure out how to interact with the Taliban government in Kabul and most critically, whether to legitimize or condemn them.
The Taliban for its part, took the bold step of requesting to address the UN and appoint its own ambassador to replace the current Afghanistan ambassador to the UN. The Taliban government’s appointed representative to the UN arguing, “All borders, territory and major cities of Afghanistan are in our control.We have support of our people and because of their support….We have all the requirements needed for recognition of a government. So we hope the UN as an neutral World Body recognize the current government of Afghanistan.” Nevertheless, Nasir Andisha, Afghani Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, disagrees, saying “ [the] Taliban does not represent the will of the Afghan people.”
This battle over the legitimacy of the Taliban in the UN comes at a crucial time where the international community at large is debating whether to accept or reject the legitimacy of the Taliban’s government. This debate centers around whether the Taliban will act with respect to the human rights of its people. As noted by Deborah Lyons, the head of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan, “The lives of millions of Afghans will depend on how the Taliban choose to govern,…The best, and still possible outcome,….would be for the Taliban to demonstrate that they seek to create an Afghanistan where people do not live in fear, where those with talents are invited to participate in rebuilding their country, and where boys and girls, young women and men, can receive the sort of education that will allow this development to continue.” However, the outlook for Afghanistan’s human rights is not good as the Human Rights Watch has already noted several violations of human rights, particularly women’s rights, in Afghanistan.
The UN has a unique position in this international debate as its recognition could welcome Afghanistan into the international community as a legitimized human rights abuser. However, The UN has the opportunity to prevent the Taliban’s government’s legitimacy. While this would harm the economic growth of Afghanistan by preventing agreements with the Taliban from being considered internationally legitimate, it would also prevent the government’s human rights abuses being accepted. The UN’s rejection would send a message internationally that the Taliban government is illegitimate and its treatment of Afghanistan’s people is unacceptable. While such a stance would be inconvenient for some hopeful trading partners of Afghanistan, the international community cannot stand idly by as the Taliban harm the people of Afghanistan under the guise of a legitimate regime.