Suhail Shaheen

Suhail Shaheen is the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar.“Read What The Taliban Told NPR About Their Plans For Afghanistan,” NPR, August 18, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/08/18/1028780816/transcript-taliban-spokesman-suhail-shaheen-interview. Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, on September 21, the Taliban announced that they nominated Shaheen as Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Nations.Michelle Nichols, “Exclusive: Taliban names Afghan U.N. envoy, asks to speak to world leaders,” September 21, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/exclusive-taliban-names-afghan-un-envoy-asks-speak-world-leaders-2021-09-21/.

Born in the Paktia Province, Afghanistan, Shaheen is a fluent English speaker and writer who was educated at Kabul University. Shaheen then went on to edit the English-language, state-owned Kabul Times during the Taliban’s first regime in the 1990s until 2001. During the Taliban’s first reign, Shaheen was also appointed deputy ambassador at the Afghan embassy in Pakistan.“Meet Suhail Shaheen: Taliban's 'soft-spoken, calm' spokesperson named as UN envoy,” First Post, September 22, 2021, https://www.firstpost.com/world/meet-suhail-shaheen-talibans-soft-spoken-calm-spokesperson-named-as-un-envoy-9986771.html. Shaheen then went on to serve as spokesman for the Taliban Political Office in Qatar.“Suhail Shaheen,” Conciliation Resources, https://www.c-r.org/who-we-are/people/suhail-shaheen.

Beginning in February 2019, Shaheen was a part of the Taliban negotiating team that secured a peace deal between the Taliban and the United States.“Pullout and guarantees dominate talks with US: Taliban spokesman,” Al Jazeera, February 26, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/2/26/pullout-and-guarantees-dominate-talks-with-us-taliban-spokesman; Ayaz Gul, “Taliban Expects Peace Deal With US in Next Meeting,” Voice of America, July 31, 2019, https://www.voanews.com/a/south-central-asia_taliban-expects-peace-deal-us-next-meeting/6172955.html. The Taliban signed the Doha peace agreement with the U.S. government on February 29, 2020.Kathy Gannon, “Mullah’s rise charts Taliban’s long road back to power,” Associated Press, August 18, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-taliban-abdul-ghani-baradar-e80165eb6c65fc7ea8fae50212ba56c8. The terms of the agreement stated that the United States would fully withdraw military troops from Afghanistan within the next 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to renounce al-Qaeda and prevent al-Qaeda and other groups from using Afghanistan as a base for terrorism against the United States. The Taliban also agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire with other Afghan militants and the Afghan government.Asad Hashim, “Pakistan warns US of ‘spoilers’ on US-Taliban deal in Afghanistan,” Al Jazeera, March 1, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/pakistan-warns-spoilers-taliban-deal-afghanistan-200302093650382.html; Matthew Lee and Kathy Gannon, “US and Taliban sign deal aimed at ending war in Afghanistan,” Associated Press, February 29, 2020, https://apnews.com/491544713df4879f399d0ff5523d369e; “Susannah George and Dan Lamothe, “Afghan government objects to elements of U.S.-Taliban peace deal,” Washington Post, March 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-government-questions-aspects-of-us-taliban-peace-deal/2020/03/01/0a973228-5a68-11ea-8efd-0f904bdd8057_story.html. In September 2020, the Taliban began negotiations with the Afghan government to establish a more secure and cooperative future for Afghanistan. Shaheen served both as a spokesman for the Taliban as well as a delegate on the negotiating team. However, the talks were continually stalled and did not lead to an eventual peace agreement.Susannah George, , Aziz Tassal and Haq Nawaz Khan, “Shadow politicians, clerics and Soviet-era fighters: The Taliban’s team negotiating peace,” Washington Post, September 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghan-taliban-peace-talks/2020/09/30/a5333540-f859-11ea-85f7-5941188a98cd_story.html.

On August 6, 2021, the Taliban began an offensive against major Afghan cities with the seizure of Zaranj, capital of Nimruz province.Susannah George and Ezzatullah Mehrdad, “Taliban fighters overrun an Afghan provincial capital for the first time since withdrawal of foreign forces,” Washington Post, August 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/06/afghanistan-taliban-nimruz/. By August 13, the Taliban controlled 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and more than two-thirds of the country.Rahim Faiez, and Joseph Krauss, “Taliban sweep across Afghanistan’s south; take 4 more cities,” Associated Press, August 13, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-taliban-c6c8d4a41c554f36031a8131538d1402. On August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan and thousands of Afghans poured into Kabul’s airport as Taliban fighters entered the city. By August 16, the Taliban laid siege to the presidential palace and took complete control of Kabul, after which the Taliban declared the war in Afghanistan had ended.“Taliban declares ‘war is over’ as president and diplomats flee Kabul,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/talibans-rapid-advance-across-afghanistan-2021-08-10/.

Following the takeover, Shaheen often gave statements to news outlets, reiterating the Taliban’s pledges for promoting a more inclusive and moderate government. Among his statements, Shaheen claimed the Taliban would not seek revenge on rivals, would allow girls and women uninterrupted access to school and public spaces, and would not enforce the burqa but would mandate the hijab.“Meet Suhail Shaheen: Taliban's 'soft-spoken, calm' spokesperson named as UN envoy,” First Post, September 22, 2021, https://www.firstpost.com/world/meet-suhail-shaheen-talibans-soft-spoken-calm-spokesperson-named-as-un-envoy-9986771.html; “Read What The Taliban Told NPR About Their Plans For Afghanistan,” NPR, August 18, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/08/18/1028780816/transcript-taliban-spokesman-suhail-shaheen-interview.

On September 7, 2021, the Taliban announced the official appointments within their caretaker government. The government is exclusively male, with many positions filled with veterans from their hardline movement in the early nineties.Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek, “Taliban Appoint Stalwarts to Top Government Posts,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/asia/taliban-women-protest-kabul-afghanistan.html; Kathy Gannon, “Taliban form all-male Afghan government of old guard members,” Associated Press, September 8, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-pakistan-afghanistan-arrests-islamabad-d50b1b490d27d32eb20cc11b77c12c87; “Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-forms-33-member-cabinet-in-afghanistan-full-list-101631066722518.html. On September 21, the Taliban announced the nomination of Shaheen as Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador. If the nomination is accepted—which media sources believe will be highly unlikely—by the United Nations, it would signal international recognition of the hardline Islamist regime.Michelle Nichols, “Exclusive: Taliban names Afghan U.N. envoy, asks to speak to world leaders,” Reuters, September 21, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/exclusive-taliban-names-afghan-un-envoy-asks-speak-world-leaders-2021-09-21/.

Extremist entity
Taliban
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, regional, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Deobandi, Islamist, jihadist, Pashtun, Salafi, Sunni, Wahhabi
Position(s):
Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador (nominated), spokesman of the Taliban Political Office in Qatar

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 after previously leading a violent insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is closely affiliated with al-Qaeda.

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On January 27, 2020, Turkish security forces arrested five People’s Protection Units (YPG) members who were allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Tal Abyad, northern Syria. During the raid, forces recovered weapons, digital materials, and documents relating to the terror group.   

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