The United Nations Security Council has issued an arms embargo and tightened other sanctions against the Taliban, an extremist militia that now controls 95 percent of Afghanistan. The resolution, backed by the United States and Russia, passed by a vote of 13-0 with China and Malaysia abstaining, and bars all countries from supply arms or other military aid to the Taliban. Currently, only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, and Pakistan is suspected to be a leading military supplier for the extremist regime. The resolution also tightens the existing air embargo on the Taliban, freezes Taliban assets overseas, and banned the sale of acetic anhydride, a chemical used to make heroin from poppies, to Afghanistan. Heroin production is one of the main financial sustainers of the Taliban. The UN imposed the measures largely because of the Talibanís harboring Osama bin Laden, the terrorist suspected of several recent bombings at US embassies.
While some in the international community are concerned that the sanctions will worsen the situation for ordinary Afghans, and will further complicate humanitarian assistance to the region, the sanctions themselves do allow imports of food, medicine, and other much needed supplies. In addition, humanitarian personnel are unaffected by the travel embargo and other measures. Afghanistan, which has the largest refugee population in the world, faces severe drought this winter, and is suffering the results of a decades-long civil war, as well as the draconian edicts of the Taliban, which bar women from education, work, and mobility.
Media Resources: Associated Press, Reuters, and Washington Post - December 19, 2000