By Matiar Chowdhury:
Twenty-two Republican senators have introduced legislation designed to block Taliban efforts to win international recognition and imposing sanctions against the group and its supporters – with the government of Pakistan singled out.
The aims of the comprehensive bill responding to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan include ensuring that the U.S. government uses its “voice, vote, and influence” to oppose any decision by the United Nations to accredit a Taliban member as the representative of Afghanistan at the world body.
A General Assembly “credentials committee” will later this fall be considering competing claims to Afghanistan’s U.N. seat by the Taliban and the incumbent permanent representative, who was appointed by the ousted elected government of Ashraf Ghani. The U.S. is a member of the nine-member committee, as are China and Russia.
The legislation also seeks to block any Taliban member serving “in a leadership position in any United Nations body, fund, program, or specialized agency.”
Afghanistan is one year into a four-year term on the U.N. Commission on Status of Women (CSW), “the world’s leading intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
Whoever is representing Afghanistan at the U.N. when 2022 begins will also kick off a three-year term on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), an influential 54-member body whose functions include filling leadership posts on other U.N. entities including the CSW and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
The Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act, introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) with 21 original co-sponsors, calls on the president not to recognize the credentials of any Taliban member as ambassador to the United States.
The legislation takes aim at the Taliban’s sponsors, with the government of Pakistan singled out. (Photo: CNSNews.com)
“We continue to see the grave implications of the Biden administration’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan,” said Risch. “An unknown number of American citizens and Afghan partners remain abandoned in Afghanistan under threat from the Taliban, we face a renewed terror threat against the United States, and the Taliban wrongly seek recognition at the U.N., even as they suppress the rights of Afghan women and girls.”
The legislation takes aim at both the Taliban and its sponsors, with Pakistan alone to be called out by name.
It requires the Secretary of State and Director of National Intelligence to submit reports assessing support for the Taliban by “state and non-state actors, including the Government of Pakistan,” both through the 2001-2020 period and specifically during this year’s offensive that toppled the elected government.
The support to be assessed includes financial backing, the provision of sanctuary, intelligence support, logistics and medical support, training, equipping, as well as “tactical, operational, or strategic direction.”
Pakistan is the Taliban’s historical mentor and ally, and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency is also widely accused of providing covert support for terrorist activities. Since the fall of Kabul last month Islamabad has been leading efforts to encourage international engagement with the group, warning that isolation has not worked.
The Risch-led legislation requires the secretary of state to carry out a review of “all forms” of U.S. foreign assistance to any government found to be providing any form of material support for the Taliban – and then to suspend that aid in most cases.
(Pakistan has received $110 million in U.S. foreign aid in fiscal year 2021, of which the largest component was $43.4 million for “economic development.” The FY 2022 budget request for Pakistan is $88 million, of which $24.5 million has been requested for “peace and security.”)
Other elements of the legislation include the establishment of a State Department taskforce focused on the evacuation of U.S. citizens and residents, and Afghan holders of special immigrant visas (SIVs) who remain stuck in Afghanistan.
It also requires the administration to report twice-monthly to congressional committees on the status of processing of Afghan SIV-holders, refugees, and “parolees” – Afghans who did not work for the U.S. and so are not eligible for SIVs but who have been granted temporary admission on humanitarian grounds.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Risch expressed the hope it would receive a speedy mark up, “so that we can quickly help those we left behind and protect America’s national security interests before it’s too late.”
The co-sponsors of S.2863 are Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Todd Young (R-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
(Matiar Chowdhury London 7th October 2021.)