‘Afghan territory not to be used to threaten or attack any country’: UNSC

Updated on Aug 31, 2021 11:09 PM IST

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla highlighted the importance of combating UN-designated terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Taliban walk in front of a military plane a day after the US troops’ withdrawal from Hamid Karzai International Airport n Kabul, Afghanistan on August 31, 2021. (REUTERS)
Taliban walk in front of a military plane a day after the US troops’ withdrawal from Hamid Karzai International Airport n Kabul, Afghanistan on August 31, 2021. (REUTERS)

The United Nations Security Council asserted on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s soil shouldn’t be used to attack any country or to shelter terrorists, even as foreign secretary Harsh Shringla highlighted the importance of combating UN-designated terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

In a strongly worded resolution adopted at the close of India’s presidency of the Security Council for the month of August, the UN’s highest body pointed to the Taliban’s commitments regarding combating terrorism and allowing the safe and orderly departure of Afghan and foreign nationals.

The UN Security Council resolution 2593, tabled by permanent members France, the UK and the US, was backed by 13 of the 15 council members. Permanent members China and Russia abstained.

The resolution demanded “that Afghan territory not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts”, and reiterated the “importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan, including those individuals and entities designated pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999), and notes the Taliban’s relevant commitments”.

The Security Council pointed to a Taliban statement of August 27, in which the group made a commitment that Afghans will be able to travel abroad, and leave the country at any time they want via any border crossing “with no one preventing them from travelling”, and said it expects the Taliban “will adhere to these and all other commitments, including regarding the safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals”.

Shringla, who presided over the Security Council meeting that passed the resolution, told the media that the UN and the international community had sent out a “strong signal” on its expectations regarding Afghanistan.

Referring to the resolution underlining the importance of combating terrorism, he said, “In that context, I may mention that the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed are UN Security Council-proscribed terror entities that need to be called out and condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

The reference to terrorist individuals and entities designated by Security Council resolution 1267 is of “direct importance to India”, he added.

Shringla noted that the resolution also recognises the importance of upholding human rights, especially of Afghan women, children and minorities, an inclusive negotiated settlement and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

“Over the last two decades, we have extended over $3 billion of assistance to Afghanistan in infrastructure development, capacity-building, education, agriculture – areas that are important for the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

Shringla didn’t comment on the abstentions by China and Russia, saying only that the Security Council had been unequivocal and the resolution reflected the views of council members.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that China abstained after it failed to have a reference to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) included in the text of the resolution. China also wasn’t keen on the resolution being passed while India held the rotating presidency of the Security Council for August, the people said.

The Russian side, which has been working closely with China on Afghanistan, abstained on similar lines, the people added.

The resolution was discussed by external affairs minister S Jaishankar with his US counterpart Antony Blinken and there were high-level contacts with other Security Council members. The resolution also addresses India’s key concerns pertaining to Afghanistan, such as facilitating travel from Kabul airport, the people said.

Shringla noted that the resolution highlighted the importance of upholding human rights, and said, “India has always provided very strong support to minority communities in Afghanistan, in particular the Sikh and Hindu minority communities, and it is an important part of our effort to try and bring those Afghan nationals, including minorities, who want to leave Afghanistan and evacuate them.”

The resolution, he added, indicated the need for a “safe zone for the passage of travellers in and out of Kabul airport” and highlighted the Security Council’s will to take necessary steps for the world community’s engagement with Afghanistan.

The Security Council pointed to the “dangerous security situation” around Kabul airport and expressed concern that “intelligence indicates further terrorist attacks may take place in the area”. It sought steps for the “rapid and secure reopening of the Kabul airport and its surrounding area”.

The council reaffirmed its commitment to the “sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national unity of Afghanistan”, and called on all parties to “seek an inclusive, negotiated political settlement, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, that responds to the desire of Afghans to sustain and build on Afghanistan’s gains over the last twenty years”.

Hours after the US completed the withdrawal of its troops from the Kabul airport and ended its 20-year presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban contended on Tuesday that the country had “gained full independence”. Despite the Taliban’s public announcements about a general amnesty, there have been numerous reports of summary executions and human rights violations from across the country.

A number of terrorist leaders, including those with links to al-Qaeda, have resurfaced in Afghanistan. India’s greatest security concern is the presence in Afghanistan of up to 10,000 fighters from Pakistan-based groups such as LeT and JeM.

Speaking shortly after the US withdrew all its troops from Afghanistan, Blinken said Washington will remain focused on counter-terrorism and hold the Taliban accountable to the commitment to prevent terror groups from using Afghan soil.

“But while we have expectations of the Taliban, that doesn’t mean we will rely on the Taliban. We’ll remain vigilant in monitoring threats ourselves. And we’ll maintain robust counter-terrorism capabilities in the region to neutralise those threats, if necessary...,” Blinken said without offering details.

Blinken also said any future engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven only by US national interests. “But we will not do it on the basis of trust or faith,” he said. “The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is: any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned.”

He said a “new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun” with the drawdown of US forces. After ending its diplomatic presence in Kabul, the US has built a new team to lead the diplomatic mission from Doha in Qatar, which has served as the venue for negotiations with the Taliban in recent years. The US team in Doha will be led by Ian McCary, the deputy chief of mission in Afghanistan for the past year.

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