Photo: KabulNow

UNSC Grants Travel Ban Exemptions for Four Taliban Leaders to Perform Hajj

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has granted travel ban exemptions to four senior Taliban members, allowing them to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj.

In a statement, the UNSC announced that on Wednesday, June 5, it approved a decision allowing senior Taliban leaders to travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj.

The exempted individuals include Mawlawi Abdul Kabir, the Taliban Deputy Prime Minister; Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban Interior Minister; Noor Mohammad Saqib, the Taliban Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs; and Abdul Haq Wassiq, the Taliban’s spy chief.

UNSC Resolution 1988 (2011), adopted in June 2011, imposed various measures, including travel bans and asset freezes, on several senior Taliban members, as well as individuals and entities associated with the Taliban, considering them a threat to the peace, stability, and security of Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, June 4th, Sirajuddin Haqqani, also listed on the FBI’s most wanted with a $10 million bounty on his head, traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and held meetings with senior UAE officials, including President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital.

Mr. Haqqani also leads the Haqqani Network, a faction of the Taliban regime and a designated terrorist group by the US. The Haqqani Network has been responsible for numerous deadly terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, including the 2008 attack on a private hotel in Kabul, which claimed the lives of six people, including a US citizen.

The UN did not specify which country applied for an exemption since the Taliban regime in Kabul does not occupy the Afghanistan seat at the UN and cannot do so. It is also not clear whether Mr. Haqqani’s trip to the UAE was also approved by the UN Security Council.

After Haqqani’s visit to the UAE, the US Department of State criticized the development, emphasizing that UN member states must comply with the travel ban imposed on Taliban leaders and seek permission before receiving them in their countries.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, June 5, Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the US Department of State, emphasized the importance of UN member states adhering to the procedures outlined by the UN 1988 Sanctions Committee.

The UNSC’s decision to exempt senior Taliban leaders from the travel ban comes at a time when the UN is preparing for a high-level meeting on Afghanistan, scheduled to occur at the end of this month in Doha, Qatar’s capital city.

The UN has extended an invitation to the Taliban, with hopes that the regime will accept and participate in the meeting, which will also be attended by special envoys from various countries involved in the Afghanistan situation.

However, the regime has not yet confirmed their participation, saying that they are currently discussing the agenda and details of the meeting.