The Taliban on March 18 welcomed a UN Security Council resolution formally extending the world body’s presence in Afghanistan, although the government of the hardline Islamist group remains unrecognised by the international community.
The resolution on March 17 – which avoids using the word “Taliban” – allows the UN to continue work in Afghanistan, still reeling after decades of war and whose economy was devastated when the international community cut off aid as the group took power last year.
The vote to extend the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) was 14 in favour, with one abstention – by Russia.
The UN has not yet recognised the Taliban’s pick of envoy to the body, and the resolution does not give the new government international recognition.
The mission includes several strands of cooperation, on humanitarian and political issues as well as on human rights, including those of women, children and journalists.
“We consider the extension of the mandate of UNAMA as a good step and want them to work effectively for solving humanitarian and other problems in Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
“We will coordinate and cooperate with them.”
First established in Afghanistan in 2002, UNAMA’s mandate has in the past included humanitarian support, human rights advocacy and political and regional cooperation.
Before last year it also sought to protect civilians throughout the conflict and support the peace process.
“The Council gives a clear message with this new mandate: UNAMA has a crucial role to play in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and to support the Afghan people as they face unprecedented challenges and uncertainty,” said Norwegian UN ambassador Mona Juul, whose country drafted the resolution.
The security situation in Afghanistan appears to be stabilising, months after the Taliban seized power on August 15, 2021 amid a hasty withdrawal of US-led foreign forces after 20 years of war.
But since then the country’s humanitarian crisis has deepened.
The UN and other global aid agencies have said that more than half of Afghanistan’s 38 million people are facing hunger as winter drags on.
The country has known almost continuous war since 1979, broken up only by the Taliban’s first regime from 1996 to 2001.
As a result it is one of the world’s poorest countries, with little in the way of infrastructure and a young population traumatised by decades of fighting.
In January, the UN made its biggest-ever single-country aid appeal, calling for $5 billion to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
Global donors led by Washington have insisted that any foreign aid will depend on the Taliban’s policy when it comes to women’s rights to education and work.
Since coming to power the Taliban have imposed several restrictions on women, though in a glimmer of hope officials have said that secondary schools for girls will reopen soon.
Earlier this month the World Bank announced more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, stating the money would go to UN agencies and international NGOs while remaining outside the control of the Taliban.