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UN's Guterres Says Intra-Taliban 'Fight For Power' Hindering International Efforts On Afghanistan

Taliban fighters stand guard at the entrance of the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque in Kabul on September 17.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says an ongoing "fight for power" among rival Taliban groups has complicated the situation in Afghanistan since the departure of U.S.-led international forces late last month and publicly pressed the hard-line militants now ruling the country to respect rights and avoid the country becoming a "safe haven" for terrorists.

Guterres also warned that it is "a fantasy" to think UN involvement in Afghanistan under Taliban rule can suddenly bring about an inclusive government, respect for rights, or exclude the presence there of terrorists.

The United Nations has "limited capacity and limited leverage,” he said, but it is playing a key role in attempts to provide humanitarian assistance to the war-torn country.

“There is clearly a fight for power within different groups in the Taliban leadership. The situation is not yet clarified," Guterres said in an interview with Associated Press ahead of the UN General Assembly high-level debate that begins on September 21.

The Taliban announced an "acting" government on September 7 whose composition included veteran Taliban figures on UN and U.S. blacklists and drew almost exclusively from hardest line of the ultraconservative Islamist group.

Guterres noted the trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of troops the United States and other countries devoted for decades to trying to address Afghan problems until their recent withdrawal as Taliban forces captured most of the country.

He told AP it was unrealistic to think the United Nations "will be able all of a sudden to produce an inclusive government, to guarantee that all human rights are respected, to guarantee that no terrorists will ever exist in Afghanistan, that drug trafficking will stop."

But Guterres also told CNN that UN officials were engaging with the Taliban on humanitarian efforts.

He also said the United Nations was trying "to make them understand that to have solidarity from the international community and to be able one day to have recognition from the international community, they need to deliver on the aspects that are very important for us -- the human rights for girls and for women, for women the right to work, for girls the right to be at school at all levels, that it would be very important for them to cooperate with the international community to avoid Afghanistan to be a safe haven for terrorists."

No foreign government has recognized the Taliban-led government, which declared its intention to rule by its strict interpretation of Shari'a law, and reports of revenge attacks and other abuses have continued to proliferate.

U.S. officials have already warned of the reemergence in Afghanistan of international terrorist threats like the group Islamic State (IS) or its local affiliate, Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), which claimed responsibility for a deadly attack with crowds massed outside Kabul airport on August 26.

The IS's media arm on September 19 posted a claim of responsibility for multiple bombings over the weekend that targeted Taliban vehicles in eastern Afghanistan, a longtime Taliban stronghold.

The claim could not immediately be corroborated, but at least eight people, including Taliban fighters, were said to have been killed in attacks in Jalalabad on September 18 and 19.

Based on reporting by AP and CNN