UN’s decision on extending special coordinator’s mission in Afghanistan remains uncertain

UN’s Special Coordinator on Afghanistan, Feridun Sinirlioğlu. File photo.

The United Nations is deliberating on whether to extend the mission of its special coordinator for Afghanistan, Feridun Sinirlioglu, whose term is set to conclude on Thursday, Feb. 29.

Appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on April 25, 2023, Sinirlioglu was tasked with conducting an independent assessment of Afghanistan amidst the crisis following the Taliban’s resurgence.

In December, Guterres presented Sinirlioglu’s findings to the UN, leading to the Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2721 with 13 votes in favor and abstentions. The resolution underscored Sinirlioglu’s recommendations for addressing Afghanistan’s challenges.

Sinirlioglu’s assessment has paved the way for potential solutions to the Afghan crisis. It prompted discussions among special envoys to Afghanistan at a UN-hosted meeting, focusing on the proposed appointment of a UN special envoy to facilitate dialogue toward establishing an inclusive government. However, the Taliban has resisted the idea of a UN special envoy, with Guterres indicating in Doha that consultations on the appointment would commence shortly.

A seasoned Turkish diplomat, Sinirlioğlu has held various significant roles, including serving as Turkey’s foreign minister in 2015 and its permanent UN representative from 2016 to 2023.

Following the December 28, 2023, resolution, the UN extended Sinirlioğlu’s tenure as special coordinator until February’s end.

Farida Mahbi, a women’s rights advocate, emphasized the importance of Sinirliogu’s mission and report for Afghanistan’s future and international relations.

Sinirlioğlu’s 21-page report offers a roadmap for Afghanistan’s reintegration into the international community and the start of intra-Afghan dialogue. It also highlights human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Political analyst Abdul Hadi Wazin praised Sinirlioğlu’s efforts in compiling the report, noting its significance for Afghanistan.

Before a meeting of special envoys in Doha on Feb. 18-19, Sinirlioğlu visited Kabul to encourage the Taliban’s participation and acceptance of a UN special envoy, although the group ultimately declined, citing unfulfilled conditions.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid acknowledged Sinirlioğlu’s effective coordination and accurate reporting, appreciating his understanding of Afghanistan’s situation.

Despite anticipation of appointing a UN special envoy by the end of February, the decision has been delayed due to international controversies, with Sinirlioğlu remaining a leading candidate for the role.