India-led UN sanctions committee to decide travel exemptions for Taliban leaders

With Russia and China working closely with the Taliban leadership since the group assumed power on August 15, the stance taken by other permanent members of the Security Council – the US, the UK and France – will set the stage for 1988 sanctions committee’s approach towards the designated Taliban leaders.

The UN 1988 sanctions committee, currently chaired by India and responsible for overseeing sanctions on designated Taliban leaders, is set to meet this month to consider the extension of travel exemptions for top Taliban leaders such as Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Under UN Security Council resolution 1267, adopted about a month after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, the Taliban and its leadership were subject to various sanctions, including an assets freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo, for sheltering al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

In 2019, Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar, and 14 members of the group’s negotiating team were granted a travel exemption by the UN in early 2019 to join peace talks with the US as part of efforts to end the war in Afghanistan. Those talks led to the signing of a peace deal between the Taliban and the US in February 2020.

The Taliban leaders have used the travel exemption, which has been renewed from time to time, to travel to several other countries, including Russia and Central Asian states. Before the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government on August 15, Afghan officials had been pressing the Indian side to tighten the scope of the travel exemption to ensure it wasn’t misused by the Taliban leaders.

The 14 members of the Taliban negotiating team include Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai, Shahabuddin Delawar, Mullah Abdul Manan Omari, the brother of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, and Anas Haqqani, the brother of Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. Both Stanekzai and Anas Haqqani have been involved in an informal outreach towards India and are also key Taliban negotiators.

Though the travel exemption is set to be renewed by September 20, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that it was too early to say what could transpire at the upcoming meeting of the 1988 sanctions committee. There are currently no indications that other restrictions on designated Taliban leaders would be eased, or that some of them would be delisted, the people said.


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