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Are Taliban On Fast Track Off UN Blacklist?

The marathon session (3 hours and 45 min, to be precise) on Afghanistan of the United Nations Security Council on June 30 included the subject of the so-called Resolution 1267 blacklist.

In the early days of growing Taliban threat back in 1999, the council imposed travel restrictions and froze the bank accounts of 142 senior Taliban figures and 360 other operatives related to Al-Qaeda.

The "1267 blacklist," as it has become known, remained a minor issue until last year. That's when it became clear that without serious attempts at reconciliation in Afghanistan, it will be impossible for the government of President Hamid Karzai to bring any meaningful improvement in the security situation and stabilization of the country.

Now, Staffan de Mistura, the UN special representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told reporters after the council's session that there have been intense negotiations in recent months between the Afghan government and the UN committee overseeing the implementation of Resolution 1267. The Afghan government is keenly interested in an overall review of Resolution 1267 that would eventually result in removal of most if not all Taliban figures listed there.

If that happens, it will almost certainly facilitate reconciliation and provide additional political credibility to Karzai, whose standing in many parts of Afghanistan is rather shaky.

De Mistura said the Afghans have been working "intensely" in the last few months to provide the committee with the necessary information to justify the eventual removal from the blacklist of Taliban individuals. The initial deadline for information submission was June 30 but that's been extended until the end of July.

The 1267 blacklist is without doubt a hotly debated issue inside Afghanistan, and the passing of the initial deadline for information submission to the UN 1267 committee indicates that there might be powerful domestic struggles behind the scenes to decide who gets off the hook and who stays hooked.

The removal of any name from the list effectively absolves that person of any misdeeds or crimes he may have committed.

Delegates to the so-called Peace Jirga held in early June and President Karzai in his inaugural speech emphasized that there will be strict criteria to determine who gets off the list and who stays on it. But in Afghanistan's tumultuous world of insider dealings, some laxity is likely to creep in.

Austria's permanent representative to the UN, Thomas Mayr-Harting, who is also the chairman of the 1267 committee on Al-Qaeda/Taliban, has repeatedly insisted that there will be no wholesale removal of names from the list and that deletions will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

With regard to possible de-listings of Taliban-related individuals, Mayr-Harting said that "the committee should be guided by the following principles: individuals should convincingly renounce violence, lay down arms, break ties with Al-Qaeda and fully respect the Afghan Constitution."

The United States, which in the past resisted attempts to remove names from the list, now supports removal from the list of those Taliban "who cut their ties to Al-Qaeda, laid down their arms, and accept the Afghan Constitution."

Some of the council members -- Brazil, for example -- even go a step further, arguing that forgiveness should be extended not only to senior Taliban figures but also to "most low- and middle-rank insurgents who can be reintegrated."

The clock is ticking. And as the start of the Kabul international conference on Afghanistan approaches on July 20, it is all but certain that major news will emerge concerning the 1267 blacklist.

-- Nikola Krastev

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