The Taliban victory in Afghanistan might embolden other groups in different parts of the world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned, expressing his worry over global terrorism while asserting that dialogue with the militant group is “absolutely essential” as the UN wants the country to play a “constructive role” in international relations.
Taliban insurgents seized control of Afghanistan in mid-August, ousting the previous elected leadership which was backed by the West.
“I must tell you, I am very worried about what we are witnessing in different parts of the world. And the fact that in Afghanistan, the Taliban were able to win might embolden other groups in different parts of the world independently of the fact that they are different from the Taliban and I am not seeing a similarity among them,” Guterres said during a press conference on Friday at the UN Headquarters.
“We have seen several of them not only congratulating the Taliban but showing stronger enthusiasm about their own capacity,” he said.
He added that in this context, he is “very worried” about scenarios, like in the Sahel, where “we do not have today an effective security mechanism to address the terrorist challenge.”
The Sahel is a region in Africa between the Sahara and the Sudanian savanna.
“When you have a group, even if it is a small group, that is fanaticised, that is ready to die in all circumstances or even consider death to be a good thing, if that group decides to launch an attack on a country, we see armies unable to face them and melting down and fleeing,” Guterres said, adding that “the Afghan Army disappeared in seven days.”
“I’m very worried about terrorism. I’m very worried that many countries are not prepared to fight it. And we need a much stronger, a much stronger unity and solidarity of countries in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
Engagement with the Taliban
The United Nations Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths met leaders of the Taliban. “The first person in the world at that level that went to Kabul to speak to the leadership,” Guterres said.
“We are permanently engaging with the Taliban, and we believe that a dialogue with the Taliban is absolutely essential at the present moment,” he added.
With the Taliban announcing a 33-member Cabinet that has no woman member and includes UN-designated terrorists, Guterres said “we naturally want the Government of Afghanistan to be an inclusive government, representing the different sectors of the Afghan population.” He also reiterated that Afghanistan must never become a sanctuary for terrorism.
“We want basic human rights, and I’m particularly concerned, of course, with women and girls’ rights to be respected. And we want Afghanistan to play a constructive role in international relations,” he said.
Guterres told reporters that “we decided that it was our duty to engage the Taliban, to create the conditions for the possibility of effective, impartial, humanitarian aid, to reach all areas and to take into account our concerns in relation to women and girls, for instance.”
“I think engaging with the Taliban is the best way to achieve the principles of the UN,” he said.
In response to a question on the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) up for renewal next week, Guterres said he believes “it is not possible, with the level of unpredictability that exists, to do an entirely new mandate for UNAMA.
“I hope that the consensus will be a technical roll-over for a short period, allowing time to develop a clearer perspective about what the situation is in Afghanistan and what the role of the UN should be,” Guterres said.
“The characteristics of the new mandate of UNAMA that will necessarily be different from the present mandate,” he added.