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UN Considers Splitting Al-Qaeda-Taliban Blacklist

The governor of Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province receives a rifle from a Taliban fighter who said he wanted to return to normal life. Kabul hopes to make such moves more common.
The governor of Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province receives a rifle from a Taliban fighter who said he wanted to return to normal life. Kabul hopes to make such moves more common.
UNITED NATIONS -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has placed enormous importance on his reconciliation and reintegration plan, aimed at drawing moderate Taliban members away from the battlefield and back into society.

One hurdle standing in the way of that goal, at least in the view of the Afghan government, is a blacklist of individuals and entities associated with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Those on the so-called "1267 list," named after a UN resolution passed more than 10 years ago, are subject to the freezing of assets, travel restrictions, and other sanctions.

The 1267 list -- which now consists of about 450 names, 140 of them Taliban-related -- has come under question by Karzai and others, and will be subject to a Security Council vote on June 17.

The council will decide on a proposal to split the list to treat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as separate entities with specific goals. The Afghan government has already come up with some 50 names of Taliban figures it would like to see removed from the list entirely.

Approval would provide the Afghan government more leeway in realizing its reconciliation-and-reintegration plan. For example, five members of the High Peace Council established by the Afghan government to facilitate peace negotiations are reportedly among those slated for removal from the list. But the proposed changes are also expected to face opposition; notably from permanent council member Russia.

Building Support

Tom Gregg, senior program coordinator of the Center on International Cooperation's Afghanistan Regional Project at New York University, says that splitting Taliban and Al-Qaeda on the 1267 list would be a major development for peace efforts in Afghanistan.

"This reflects a move on the international community's part to reflect a widely held view now that we are talking about two separate groups: the Taliban, a group on and within the borders of Afghanistan; and Al-Qaeda has a different ideology and a different objective -- international radical fundamentalism," Gregg says.

Turning to the Afghan government's request that nearly 50 names be removed from the list, Gregg explains that the move would expand on the precedent set in 2010, when the names of seven Taliban members were delisted.

"Last year there were far fewer names that were removed from the list, but first of all the precedent has been set, which is an important development," Gregg said. "And second, the context is slightly different. I think that the Afghan government would have the support of the international community behind this to get more names off the list this year than the last year."

Russia has reportedly raised objections to the removal of certain Taliban names. The individuals Moscow is opposed to reportedly include Taliban commanders who fought as mujahedin against the Soviet Union. Moscow has also reportedly expressed concerns that the Taliban provides support and training for insurgents in Chechnya and facilitates drug trafficking through Russia.

On the other hand, Moscow has welcomed the recent decision by the U.S. government to designate the Caucasus Emirate operating in its North Caucasus region as a terrorist organization. Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed emir of the emirate, was added to the 1267 list in March based on his association with groups associated with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Making Sanctions Count

Richard Barrett, coordinator of the so-called Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, says that names suggested for removal from the 1267 list undergo intense scrutiny.

Germany's Peter Wittig Wittig has expressed confidence that a number of Taliban names will be removed.
"The committee would be very cautious about allowing somebody's name to be removed from the list who really hasn't changed their views at all about how the world should operate," Barrett says, "because it would suggest that if they had a position of influence where they can make such a decision, they might allow terrorism to base itself back in areas under their control."

Germany's UN ambassador, Peter Wittig, who is presently the chair of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee, spent a week in Afghanistan earlier this month and has reportedly been engaged in negotiations with senior Afghan officials on how to proceed with the proposed de-listings and the division of the list. Wittig has expressed confidence that the removal of a number of Taliban names will be approved in the June 19 vote.

The 1267 list is no stranger to scrutiny over how efficiently its provisions have actually been enforced by UN member states. A number of lower-ranking Taliban members on the list, says Gregg of New York University, have reportedly traveled internationally without problem and their bank accounts were not frozen.

"[But] for the individuals on the list who are considered fairly serious Taliban or Al-Qaeda members, there is much closer attention paid to whether or not they have the ability to fly and also tracking their financial resources and offshore accounts," he adds.

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