September 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 August 2007
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action
The mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expires on 13 October, but the Council may renew ISAF’s mandate in September. (As in 2006, early consideration is possible in order to accommodate Germany’s desire that a Council resolution be in place before its parliament in October considers extending the mandate of its troops in ISAF.) The ISAF renewal resolution has been uncontentious in the past. This year there may be interest in including some new elements because of the changing situation on the ground.

The mandate of the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expires on 23 March 2008.

The Secretary-General’s next report on the situation in Afghanistan is expected in late September. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Tom Koenigs, will most likely brief the Council in October on the report.

A high-level meeting, largely of members of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), is expected to meet on 23 September on the margins of the 62nd General Assembly.

Key Recent Developments
On 15 August the most recent ISAF report was circulated to the Council.

While there has been an upsurge in violence the main features are hostage-taking, assassinations and suicide bombings. Greater civilian casualties are an important feature. In addition, the violence has spread to Kabul and the northern provinces.

The Council received a closed-door briefing from Koenigs on 17 July, after which it issued a presidential statement welcoming recent international initiatives to improve security, stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan and reiterating support for the Afghan government. The Council also condemned all suicide attacks against civilians and the Afghan and international forces.

The Secretary-General has been actively involved. On 20 June he voiced his concern over the rising number of civilian deaths. He visited to Afghanistan on 29 June and met with top government and UNAMA officials. On 3 June he spoke at a conference in Rome on the rule of law in Afghanistan, which was co-chaired by the UN and the governments of Afghanistan and Italy.

On 21 June a conference focused on the disbandment of illegal armed groups in Afghanistan and police reform was held in Tokyo. The meeting was organised under the co-chairmanship of Japan, Afghanistan and UNAMA.

The Afghanistan Development Forum and the JCMB met at the end of April. One year after its inauguration the JCMB assessed that it was on track in implementing the Afghanistan Compact between the Afghan government and the international community.

Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer hosted Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf at a meeting in Ankara at the end of April. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan had deteriorated with each blaming the other for the resurgence of the insurgency in Afghanistan. At the end of this summit meeting, the leaders issued the Ankara Declarationin which they agreed to deny “sanctuary, training and financing to terrorists” and agreed to establish a working group of high-level representatives of the three countries.

The peace jirga held in August in Kabul was a significant event. It brought together the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan for a further meeting at which parliamentarians and tribal leaders also participated. There is now agreement to hold a follow-up meeting in Pakistan on border regions.

The EU’s European Security and Defence Policy initiative was launched in June and will send 160 police officers to train the Afghan police force and help establish rule of law.

Options
In considering the ISAF resolution, the Council has the following options:

  • adopt a similar resolution to the 2006 one to renew ISAF’s mandate; and
  • agree to a stronger resolution reinforcing elements from the July presidential statement such as a comprehensive approach to security, governance and development of Afghanistan, concern over civilian casualties and the link between the insurgency and opium.

The Council also has the option of requesting more timely reports on ISAF’s activities and agreeing to discuss the reports. (The latest report came out in August, covering activities from February to April.)

Although it appears likely that the Council will consider the ISAF resolution in September, it also has the option of delaying consideration since ISAF mandate doesn’t expire until 13 October.

Key Issues
A key issue is the volatile security situation and its heavy humanitarian and political toll. Closely connected is the growing concern about links between the Taliban and the narcotics trade. This is seen as an increasing threat to the future stability of Afghanistan. This year’s record poppy crop highlights the urgent need for a more effective strategy.

A related issue is the importance of judicial and police reform. This is key to apprehending and prosecuting those involved in the drug trade and to combating corruption. Establishing a well-trained Afghan National Police force is also an important issue for the long-term security of Afghanistan.

A potential issue is the possible reluctance of some ISAF countries to keep providing troops. The Council is conscious of the need to ensure that NATO governments remain engaged.

An issue which is of increasing concern is the number of civilian deaths, both as a result of Taliban as well as ISAF operations. While there are no official figures, groups monitoring civilian deaths estimate that the 2007 figures will be higher than the figure given by Human Rights Watch of about 1,000 civilians killed in 2006. A related issue is how the increasing number of civilian deaths may have affected public support for ISAF, particularly given the press stories of international forces killing more civilians than the Taliban.

Another issue is how the Council can help encourage greater dialogue between governments in the region, in particular on a strategy to secure Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran’s borders.

A further issue is coherence in the UN’s efforts in Afghanistan. Council members are aware that better coordination is needed among UN agencies and other international bodies in Afghanistan. Among the possibilities being floated is the appointment of a high-level representative to take on this role.

Council and Wider Dynamics
This year, as a result of the deteriorating situation on the ground and the interest shown by some of the elected members, the Council has given Afghanistan more attention than previously.

Italy has assumed the lead in the Council and has organised regular briefings providing opportunities for Council members to discuss Afghanistan outside of the content of the semi-annual UNAMA reports. Qatar has pushed for more attention to civilian deaths while Indonesia is interested in increasing dialogue with relevant parties.

There are some sensitive areas among the P5. Russia continues to oppose dialogue with ex-Taliban who were formerly on sanctions lists, while China remains guarded on how far the Council should push the issue of regional cooperation. The big troop-contributing countries like the US and UK are cautious on the issue of civilian casualties, but so far it has been possible to find acceptable language that has made them comfortable about including the issue in Council statements. These members are also showing increased interest in a more comprehensive approach and better coordination of UN activities.

Underlying Problems
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that the closure of several camps in Afghanistan this year could lead to Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan at a pace exceeding its expectations and resources. This could lead to a need for additional funds to improve security, raise living standards and create employment opportunities.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1746 (23 March 2007) extended UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2008.
  • S/RES/1707 (12 September 2006) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 2007.
  • S/RES/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA.
Selected Presidential Statement
  • S/PRST/2007/27 (17 July 2007) welcomed recent international initiatives to improve security, stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan and reiterating support for the Afghan government.
Selected Report of the Secretary-General
  • S/2007/152 (15 March 2007) was the latest report.
Other Relevant Documents
  • S/2007/494 (15 August 2007) was the latest ISAF report.
  • S/2007/492 (13 August 2007) was the letter from the Afghanistan Foreign Minister to the Council president welcoming ISAF’s continued operations in Afghanistan.
  • S/2007/417 (6 July 2007) was the letter from Japan on the Conference on Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups.
  • S/2007/266(3 May 2007) was the letter from Turkey containing the Ankara declaration made after the summit meeting between the presidents of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey.

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: 205 international civilians, 957 local civilians, 14 military observers, three civilian police, 25 UN volunteers
  • Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 23 March 2008
ISAF Military Commander
General Dan McNeill (US)
ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration
  • Current strength: about 41,000 troops
  • Contributors of military personnel: 37 NATO and non-NATO countries
  • Current top contributors: US, UK, Germany, Canada, Italy and Canada
  • 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

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