March 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 March 2007
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Expected Council Action

The Council is expected to extend the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which expires on 24 March. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, will likely brief the Council.

The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Afghanistan is also due in March. His report is expected to ask the Council to endorse UNAMA’s expansion to all provinces, facilitation of regular cooperation between regional players, verification of civilian casualties and greater humanitarian coordination.

Key Recent Developments
Violent attacks in Afghanistan rose steadily during 2006. Hostilities were recorded in all but two of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Faced with an obviously deteriorating security situation, the international community began to focus its attention on Afghanistan again. In February the US, the UK and some other NATO members committed additional troops to counter an anticipated Taliban spring offensive.

The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) held its third meeting on 30 and 31 January in Berlin. This body oversees the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year framework for reconstruction between the Afghan government and the international community that was launched on 31 January 2006. At the Berlin meeting the JCMB assessed the achievements of the Compact over the year, concluding that it had made slow but steady progress, achieving eight out of 12 benchmarks set for 2006.

Koenigs briefed the Council on 5 February in a closed-door session about the situation on the ground and outlined UNAMA’s future goals.

A Council delegation led by Japan visited Afghanistan from 11 to 16 November 2006. The report of the mission was presented to the Council on 7 December.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced that Pakistan would fence part of the border with Afghanistan to stop militants from crossing over. But Pakistan is coming under pressure to take more forceful measures against Al-Qaida forces in Pakistan.

Council options include:

  • Adopting a resolution to renew UNAMA’s mandate for 12 months, expanding its presence to all the provinces and giving it a bigger coordination role between the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Operation Enduring Freedom and the UN agencies in Afghanistan.
  • Adopting a resolution as above but renewing the mandate only for six months. China has recently been in favour of shorter duration mandates.
  • Deciding to expand the UNAMA mandate to include specific focus on security sector reform.
  • Deciding to hold more frequent meetings on Afghanistan, so as to be better-informed on the security situation and UNAMA’s role.
  • Requesting the Secretary-General to become directly involved in coordinating regional cooperation, particularly in bringing together Afghan-Pakistani leaders. One possibility would be to develop a structure like a tripartite commission with UNAMA, Pakistan and Afghanistan to improve regional coordination.
  • Addressing both drug production and impunity, which are important underlying issues in Afghanistan.

Key Issues
The key issue is the precarious security situation and its threat to nation-building. A related issue is the continuing upsurge in illegal drug production and trafficking. The narco-economy is one of the main threats to stability in Afghanistan in that proceeds from the drug trade feed the insurgency.

A second key issue is how to demonstrate the wider commitment of the international community to Afghanistan. If UNAMA is renewed for less than a year this could send a negative signal.

A related issue is how to assist regional coordination between Afghanistan and its neighbours. The outcome of the proposed cross-border jirgas or assemblies between Afghanistan and Pakistan to improve security and stability will be important. But an underlying question is whether the UN can do more to help and whether the Council should actively steer the Secretariat in that direction.

Another issue is how to support the JCMB to become more effective. At its last meeting, the JCMB acknowledged that it needed to be strengthened to accelerate implementation of the Compact. Currently it does not have a full-time secretariat. While it meets quarterly there is little international engagement between meetings.

Also on the minds of Council members is the security of UN staff, particularly if UNAMA expands further into southern Afghanistan. UNAMA currently has eight regional offices outside Kabul, including one in Kandahar.

Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council is generally in agreement on the importance of the UN’s presence in Afghanistan and the need to show support for UNAMA.

Members differ on some important elements. Russia, together with most members of the Council, supports the reconstruction process but has criticised what it calls the “inertia of old approaches” which has slowed down progress in reconstruction. This could result in a tussle over language when negotiating the new resolution.

Having UNAMA verify civilian casualties may be a sensitive issue. ISAF operations last October resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians across the country. However actual numbers were not released. Nevertheless, verifying civilian casualties is a role that the UN plays in Iraq, publishing information about casualties from both insurgent and coalition operations.

Regional cooperation could also see some interesting dynamics. Pakistan is a key player and it has in the past objected to being singled out for specific mention in cooperating with Afghanistan. It prefers more general references to regional cooperation in any resolution on Afghanistan.

Italy is now the lead country in the Council on this issue and as a member of the Contact Group on Afghanistan it is expected to play a key role. However, Afghanistan is currently a highly sensitive political domestic issue in Italy, and was in part responsible for the recent resignation of the Italian prime minister. It is unclear whether this will in any way limit Italy’s leadership role.

Underlying Problems
Despite the surge in the Taliban-led insurgency some ISAF troop contributors are reluctant to increase numbers and send troops into more dangerous areas. The weakness of the Afghan police force continues to be a major problem. As the situation deteriorates civilians are getting caught up in hostilities and reconstruction work is being disrupted.

On 29 February the Afghan parliament passed a resolution that would give amnesty to former combatants. If it becomes law, it could lead to dissatisfaction among parts of the Afghan population who have been demanding justice for war crimes for many years. An Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice was delayed in 2005 because of the security situation. However, lack of accountability for war crimes and human rights abuses may erode the legitimacy of the government.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1707 (12 September 2006) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 2007.
  • S/RES/1662 (23 March 2006) revised and extended UNAMA’s mandate until 24 March 2007
  • S/RES/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA.
  • S/RES/1267(15 October 1999) imposed sanctions against the Taliban.
Selected Report of the Secretary-General
  • S/2006/727 (11 September 2006) was the latest report.

Other Relevant Documents

  • S/PV.5581 (7 December 2006) was the discussion on the report of the Council mission to Afghanistan.
  • S/2006/935 (4 December 2006) was the report of the Council mission to Afghanistan.
  • SC/8850 (9 October 2006) was a press statement expressing concern about the security situation in Afghanistan and the increase in opium cultivation and trafficking.
  • S/2006/765 (26 September 2006) was the latest ISAF report.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNAMA’s Chief of Mission
Tom Koenigs (Germany)
UNAMA: Size, Composition and Duration
  • Current strength: 206 international civilians, 848 local civilians, 11 military observers, three civilian police, 34 UN volunteers
  • Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 24 March 2007
ISAF Military Commander
General Dan McNeill (US)
ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration
  • Current strength: about 35,460 troops
  • Contributors of military personnel: 37 NATO and non-NATO countries
  • Current top contributors: US, UK, Germany, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands
  • Duration: 20 December 2001 to present; mandate expires on 13 October 2007
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) : Size, Composition and Duration
  • Current strength: about 11,000 troops (this is an estimate as the troop numbers shift continuously)
  • Top contributor: US
  • Duration: 7 October 2001 to present

Useful Additional Sources

Full forecast


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