Photo: UAE Mission to the UN via X

Divisions Over UNSC Resolution on Afghanistan Dooms its Prospects

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), on Friday, December 29, adopted a resolution providing for, among other measures, the appointment of a UN special envoy for Afghanistan. The resolution follows the recommendation of the UN Special Coordinator Feridun Sinirlioğlu based on his independent assessment submitted on November 8.

Resolution 2721 passed with 13 votes in favor and two abstentions from China and Russia. The Russian representative declared non-support for the UN Secretary-General’s decision to appoint a Special Envoy for Afghanistan until it receives approval from the Taliban.

There was much debate about the position of the Security Council after the assessment was presented by the Secretary-General in early November. The co-pen holders of the Afghanistan file, Japan and the UAE, reviewed and edited the draft resolution three times after comments from members. The rift and disagreements were obvious during the discussion in the session that adopted the resolution. The United States and the United Kingdom were strongly supportive while Russia and China clearly voiced their concerns and reservations.

Russia and China conditioned their support of future steps taken by the Secretary-General on the buy-in from the Taliban, who have opposed the appointment of a special envoy.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, stated in a statement on December 30 that “The government of Afghanistan reiterates that the appointment of an additional SE for Afghanistan in the presence of UNAMA is unnecessary as Afghanistan is not a conflict zone & is ruled by a central government that is able to secure its national interests, fulfill its obligations & manage all affairs through bilateral & multilateral mechanisms.”

The Taliban argues that historically appointments of special envoys, both in Afghanistan and globally, haven’t resolved conflicts but rather exacerbated situations by imposing external solutions.

Before the Security Council resolution also the Taliban had criticized the assessment’s recommendation of appointing a new UN special envoy.

There was also a third bloc in the Security Council, which aligned with much of the criticism that the assessment and the subsequent resolution have received from Afghan political forces. France, Malta, and Switzerland, among others, advocated for a more direct language that conditioned any expansion of engagement and normalization with the regime on its adherence to human rights and international law.

Heather Barr, Director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), commended UN representatives from France, Switzerland, and Malta for advocating for Afghan women’s rights. However, she expressed concern about the resolution omitting certain demands of Afghan women. “Afghan women have been very clear: ending the systematic violation of rights [by] the Taliban is an absolute prerequisite for any normalization,” she said.

In Afghans’ review of the resolution, the interesting point is the welcoming tone toward the resolution from many who had criticized the assessment when it came out in November.

 The armed anti-Taliban group, the National Resistance Front (NRF), emphasized in a statement that the council and all member states should be cautious and take more time to consider the independent assessment and its recommendations, along with assessing the views of all stakeholders, especially of political, civil, women and comate opposition to the Taliban. 

“We believe only the selection of an impartial envoy of a high international stature and fully familiar with the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan, in consultation with the main parties of the conflict, might be effective in initiating a genuinely inclusive and democratic political process and facilitating engagement among Afghanistan and international stakeholders,” NRF stated.

The National Council of Resistance for the Salvation of Afghanistan, formed by ex-political figures in exile, stressed caution in the UN’s selection of a special representative for Afghanistan. They insist on appointing an envoy well-versed in Afghanistan’s circumstances and crisis, maintaining complete neutrality in handling related matters.

Naseer Ahmad Faiq, the acting representative of Afghanistan to the UN, commended the resolution’s approval as a demonstration of the UN Security Council’s dedication to strengthening peace, reintegrating Afghanistan into the international community, and empowering Afghan women.

Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, expressed support for the resolution, describing it as a step toward peace and progress. He called on the Taliban to “work for the peace and prosperity of the country and for Afghanistan to take its rightful place in the international community.”