WASHINGTON, July 12: Afghan President Hamid Karzai is urging the United Nations to remove up to 50 former Taliban officials from its terrorism blacklist in a gesture intended to advance political reconciliation talks with militants, a newspaper report said on Monday.
The request to remove about a quarter of the 137 names on the list was reported by the Washington Post, citing an unnamed senior Afghan official.
The US administration also supports the move, albeit partially, as it opposes the delisting of key Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar for their close links to Al Qaeda.
On Tuesday, Richard C. Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, went to New York to urge UN officials to move forward on the delisting process.
Mr Holbrooke wants the so-called reformed Taliban members delisted ahead of a major international conference in Kabul this month that is aimed at bolstering stability in Afghanistan.
The Post noted that the Afghan government had sought for years to delist former Taliban figures who it said had cut ties with the movement.
“But the campaign to cull names from the list … has taken on renewed urgency in recent weeks as Mr Karzai has begun to press for a political settlement to Afghanistan’s nearly nine-year-old conflict,” the Post observed.
As it awaits Afghanistan’s request to delist more former Taliban officials, the UN Security Council has proceeded with its own review of about a dozen individuals whose names were submitted for removal several years ago.
At least five of those named on the sanction list are former Taliban officials who now serve in parliament or privately mediate between the Afghan government and the fighters battling Nato-led forces and their Afghan partners.
Among them is a former Taliban education minister, Mullah Arsala Rahmani, who is now a member of the Afghan senate.
“President Karzai wants the UN to remove all the people’s names from the blacklist,” Mr Rahmani told the Post. “And that’s something that all Afghans want, because it will help in the process of peace negotiations.”