Jun 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

UN asked to extend waiver allowing some Taliban leaders to travel abroad

Flags stand outside the United Nations (UN) building in Geneva, Switzerland.
Flags stand outside the United Nations (UN) building in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Robert Hradil/Getty Images

Countries have asked the United Nations to keep a Taliban travel ban waiver in place that allows key members to travel abroad.

Why it matters: The UN's travel ban waiver is set to expire on June 20 unless it gets renewed. Advocates in support of extending the waiver suggest it allows for peace talks to continue with the Taliban, while critics say it rewards the Taliban for oppressive behaviors.

Driving the news: Advocates for the waiver suggest it allows countries to keep an ongoing dialogue with the Taliban.

  • The UN's waiver is seen as "a tool to facilitate contact with the de facto authorities," said Henrik Thune, the deputy foreign minister of Norway, Foreign Policy reports.
  • "In our opinion, this continues to be crucial if we want to influence the trajectory of the future of Afghanistan," Thune said.
  • Norway is a member of the UN's security council and hosted talks with the Taliban about human rights issues earlier this year.
  • The Biden administration has not issued a recent position on the Trump-era waiver. But, at the end of 2021, the U.S. asked the UN to extend it, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The other side: Human rights groups have urged the UN to end the waiver, saying Taliban leaders who have oppressed women and girls in Afghanistan are allowed to travel internationally, The Guardian reports.

  • Critics suggest that extending the waiver could be seen "as rewarding the Taliban despite their repressive political crackdowns and reversal of basic human rights," Foreign Policy reports.

What they're saying: Heather Barr, from Human Rights Watch, tweeted over the weekend that, at the very least, the Taliban leaders responsible for a ban on girls' education should be banned from traveling.

  • "It’s a false dichotomy to suggest that ending the travel ban exemption means giving up on engaging the Taliban," she tweeted. "Engage, by all means—in Kabul and Doha! But don’t legitimize them with fancy trips and don’t let extraordinary abuses against women and girls go without consequences."
  • Former Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström supported letting the waiver expire, The Guardian reports.
  • “The longstanding UN ban on travel for Taliban leaders carries a waiver for some of them," Wallström said. "Meanwhile, Afghan women can hardly leave their homes. The travel ban exemption should not be renewed without conditions: real progress for Afghan women and girls.”
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