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At UN, Afghanistan's Neighbors Urge Peace and Security

By Margaret Besheer September 21, 2021

Afghanistan's neighbors reacted to last month's U.S. military withdrawal and the Taliban takeover at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, calling for peace and stability in their region.

"The American decision to withdraw from Afghanistan following negotiations with the Taliban constituted an extremely critical turning point for this country," said Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, the emir of Qatar.

Qatar has good relations with both Washington and the Taliban, hosting talks between the two in Doha, its capital. The Taliban have also had an office in Doha since 2013.

The emir said they would continue to coordinate with partners to ensure gains made during those talks would be maintained and commitments kept.

"We also stress the necessity of continuing dialogue with the Taliban because boycott only leads to polarization and reactions, whereas dialogue could bring in positive results," the emir said. "The issue in Afghanistan is not a matter of victory or defeat but rather an issue of failure to impose a political system from outside."

Qatar has also been one of the countries that has helped to evacuate thousands of foreigners and Afghan nationals from the country, following the August 15 takeover by the Taliban.

"Regardless of the political process, Afghanistan needs the help and solidarity of the international community," Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the gathering. "We hope that peace, stability and security will be established in the country as soon as possible, and that the Afghan people will find relief."

Iran has a large Afghan refugee population. The U.N. refugee agency says there are about 780,000 registered Afghans in the country and as many as 2 million more who are undocumented.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi used his address to poke the United States, saying it did not "exit" Afghanistan, but had been "expelled." He also issued a word of caution to Taliban leaders.

"If an inclusive government having an effective participation of all ethnicities shouldn't emerge to run Afghanistan, security will not be restored to the country," he said in a video message. A number of leaders have opted not to attend this year's meeting in person, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Afghanistan's security is very important to Central Asian nations. Many fear that continued instability and insecurity could lead to mass migration to their countries. There is also concern that if the Taliban do not crack down on Islamist extremists, they could export ideology and terror to their countries.

"The influence and voice of the United Nations on Afghanistan must be heard louder than ever," Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said in a prerecorded address.

"We have recently opened the Uzbek-Afghan border and resumed the supply of basic needs and oil products, as well as electricity to this country," Mirziyoyev said.

He reiterated his proposal for the General Assembly to establish a permanent U.N. Committee on Afghanistan to improve international cooperation.

As the Taliban swept into Kabul in mid-August, the United Nations evacuated about 100 mostly foreign staff out of the country to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

On Tuesday, the Kyrgyz Republic's president offered to set up a temporary U.N. office in his capital, Bishkek, and urged U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to consider it. He also announced that 500 places at Kyrgz universities have been made available to ethnic Kyrgz living in Afghanistan.

"We hope that social, political stability and law and order will be quickly reestablished in Afghanistan," President Sadyr Zhaparov added during in his recorded message.

Afghanistan Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai listened to the remarks in the General Assembly. He was appointed in July by the former government of President Abdul Ghani and continues to speak out strongly on social media against the Taliban.

On Monday, the U.N. secretary-general received a letter from the Taliban notifying him that they want to replace Isaczai with their own envoy, a U.N. spokesman said. The letter also said the Taliban want to participate in this week's General Assembly debate.

Presently, Afghanistan is slated to speak last, on September 27, at the ambassador level, so presumably that would be Isaczai, who is still the accredited representative.

The U.N. said it sent the Taliban letter and a September 15 letter from Isaczai listing himself as the head of the Afghan delegation to the General Assembly's credentials committee.

It will be up to the nine-member committee to come to a decision about who will represent Afghanistan at the United Nations. They are unlikely to meet before October, however, making it unlikely that the Taliban could address the annual debate.

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