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UN seeks independent ideas on tackling Afghanistan's Taliban

People stand outside a hospital after a bomb blast in Mazar-e Sharif, the capital city of Balkh province, in northern Afghanistan, Thursday, March 9, 2023. A bomb killed a Taliban-appointed provincial governor and two others in Afghanistan's Mazar-e- Sharif Thursday, a Taliban police spokesman said. (AP Photo/Abdul Saboor Sirat)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday calling for independent recommendations on how a united international community should address the enormous challenges confronting Afghanistan — above all the Taliban’s drastic curtailment of education and work for women and girls, but also terrorism and the country’s dire humanitarian and economic situation.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Japan and the United Arab Emirates, asks U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish an independent panel to assess the situation in Afghanistan and make proposals for a “coherent approach” for key players inside and outside the United Nations dealing with the political, humanitarian and development issues. It ordered the assessment to be provided to the Security Council no later than Nov. 17.

United Arab Emirates Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh was asked afterward whether the Security Council and the U.N. Secretariat have run out of their own ideas to address the future of Afghanistan. She called the Afghan situation very complex and said council members hope the ideas from the independent assessment will help bolster the council’s thinking “and the thinking of the international community around an international strategy.”

She noted criticism that there is no international strategy to deal with Afghanistan’s challenges and crises.

“Afghanistan has been on an extremely alarming trajectory since August 2021,” Nusseibeh said. “So, our hope is that the assessment will offer credible suggestions as to how the various relevant international and regional actors can coalesce around a shared vision for the country, and how we can advance that vision in the Security Council.”

She said the unanimous approval of the resolution by the 15-member Security Council, which remains paralyzed over Ukraine because of Russia’s veto power and divided on other issues, shows that unity is possible on Afghanistan.

The resolution listed a host of challenges facing Afghanistan that need to be addressed, including human rights, especially of women and girls, the dire humanitarian situation, the problems of religious and ethnic minorities, security and terrorism, narcotics production, social, economic and development needs, promoting dialogue and improving governance and the rule of law.

The Taliban seized power in mid-August 2021 amid the chaotic departure of U.S. and NATO troops after 20 years. As the Taliban did during their previous rule of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they gradually reimposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. Girls are now barred from school beyond the sixth grade and women are banned from most jobs, public spaces such as parks, and gyms.

The Security Council also unanimously adopted a second resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan — UNAMA — until March 17, 2024.

Its mandate includes fostering an inclusive political dialogue, monitoring and reporting on human rights, facilitating humanitarian assistance, addressing economic and social challenges and countering terrorism and narcotics.

“The role of UNAMA is becoming more important and indispensable at this time of crisis,” Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Ishikane Kimihiro told the council before the vote.

After the vote, U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood called UNAMA “a lifeline for the people of Afghanistan,” saying it “is critical to working toward the peace and stability that we all agree is so important for Afghanistan and the world.”