October 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2007
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Tom Koenigs, is expected to brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on Afghanistan published on 21 September.

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

Key Recent Developments
Kidnappings and suicide bombings continued in September as a key Taliban strategy.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai co-chaired a high-level meeting on Afghanistan on the margins of the 62nd General Assembly. In a communiqué issued after the meeting participants called for “sustained international efforts to support Afghanistan” and greater coordination in the areas of security, counternarcotics, governance and regional cooperation. The participants also asked for two areas of UN involvement to be strengthened: the coordination of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) (which the UN co-chairs) and the role of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.

On 19 September the Council renewed the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) until 13 October 2008 but only after protracted discussions at the expert level. The expanded ISAF resolution did not change ISAF’s mandate but was intended to highlight the Council’s attention to current issues including the need for a comprehensive approach to Afghanistan. Russia abstained making this the first time the ISAF resolution failed to obtain unanimous support.

In a press conference on 21 September, Koenigs said that peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban should be encouraged as the insurgency could not be won just by military means. He also called for neighbouring countries to support peace initiatives.

On 21 September, at the urging of UNAMA, civil society, the Afghan government and the people of Afghanistan participated in activities to mark International Peace Day. In the days leading up to International Peace Day there was a period of tranquility which also allowed the World Health Organisation and UNICEF to provide vaccinations.

(Please see our September 2007 Forecast for earlier developments.)

Options
If Council members prefer to retain the current level of limited engagement, the options seem to include:

  • take no action; or
  • approve a presidential or press statement responding to Koenigs’ briefing and the Secretary-General’s report.

If Council members wish to increase the current level of Council and UN engagement, as suggested by participants at the recent high-level meeting, the options include:

  • request the Secretary-General to present the Council with proposals for increasing cooperation between the UN and other actors affecting the situation in Afghanistan;
  • explore possibilities for widening UNAMA’s role in the JCMB;
  • suggest ways in which the Secretary-General’s Special Representative’s role can be strengthened; and
  • canvass the possibility of appointing a high-level representative who might in time play a role in the kinds of negotiations envisaged by Koenigs in his 21 September statement.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is whether to respond to the sense of the high-level meeting that the current level of UN engagement should be increased, and developing a positive role for the Council in this regard.

On the ground the key issues are the deteriorating security situation and poppy cultivation for opium, which finances the Taliban. (In its annual report on poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that opium production increased by 34 percent over 2006. Production in the Taliban-controlled southwest increased while it fell in more stable areas.) Other issues include alleged corruption in Afghan security forces and the need for judicial reform. Both impinge on efforts to control the opium trade.

Another issue is that ISAF’s mandate does not allow international forces to have direct involvement in poppy eradication. As a result, NATO seems to prefer to tackle the problem through training as well as sharing information and logistics.

An issue for some ISAF contributors, and perhaps linked to the growing interest in a wider UN umbrella over the Afghanistan situation, is the domestic political cost of keeping troops in Afghanistan. In Italy, Japan and Canada this issue has proved sensitive.

Council and Wider Dynamics
In recent months, in part due to energetic leadership by the lead country, Italy, there have been more presidential statements and more substantive content in the recent ISAF resolution on Afghanistan. But in practice, most other members seem to have been unready for real expansion of UN involvement. The presence of troops from three P5 members (UK, France and US) coupled with history (including Russia’s past involvement) and regional interests (notably China’s) have made it difficult to discuss the ambit of the Council’s role.

The preamble of the ISAF resolution adopted in September resulted in lengthy negotiations, particularly in light of new elements that addressed politically sensitive issues. Russia abstained from voting on the resolution as it was uncomfortable with a reference to Operation Enduring Freedom’s maritime interdiction component.
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UN Documents

 

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1776 (19 September 2007) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 2008.
  • S/RES/1746 (23 March 2007) extended UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2008.
  • 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 reiterated support for the Afghan government.
Selected Report of the Secretary-General
  • S/2007/555 (21 September 2007) was the latest report.
Other Relevant Documents
  • S/2007/494 (15 August 2007) 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: 210 international civilians, 957 local civilians, 16 military observers, two civilian police, 29 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 2008

Useful Additional Sources

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