September 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 August 2008
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Expected Council Action
The mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan expires on 13 October, but the Council may renew it during September. (For the last two years the Council has considered the renewal early in order to accommodate European concerns that a Council resolution be in place before parliaments consider extending ISAF troop commitments in October.)

The mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expires on 23 March 2009.

The Secretary-General’s next report on developments in Afghanistan is expected in the second half of September. An open debate on the report is likely to be held in October.

Key Recent Developments
In July violence reached its worst level since 2001 with 260 civilian deaths. June was the deadliest month for foreign troops since 2001, with 45 killed. Further, in an ambush on 18 August, ten French paratroopers were killed representing the largest single loss of foreign troops in ground battles since 2001. Aid agencies warned in August that armed clashes and conflict-related violence had increased by about 50 percent in 2008 compared to 2007. According to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), the 2,500 killed in armed conflict thus far in 2008 included as many as 1,000 civilians, with two-thirds of the reported civilian casualties attributed to Taliban insurgents.

Investigations by UNAMA into reports that civilians had been killed in US-led coalition air raids in Herat on 21 August revealed that some ninety civilians were killed, including sixty children. It is one of the worst cases of foreign forces killing civilians in Afghanistan since 2001. On 25 August, the Afghan government called for a review of agreements regulating the presence of international troops in Afghanistan. At press time, Russia circulated a draft press statement deploring the air strikes.

From January to July, over 84 security incidents involving aid organisations were reported, with 19 NGO staff dead. Three more international aid workers and their Afghan colleague were killed on 13 August. Many aid agencies have restricted the scale and scope of their operations. Twelve World Food Programme convoys were attacked in the first six months of 2008, resulting in the loss of 466 tonnes of food.

On 7 July, a suicide bomber targeted the Indian embassy in Kabul. Reports listed 58 dead including two Indian diplomats and 141 injured.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has reportedly endorsed a $20 billion Afghan government proposal to nearly double the size of the Afghan army over the next five years to 120,000 troops. The funds would also finance an Afghan Air Corps. Gates also reportedly supports unifying the command structure of ISAF and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom forces, with the intention of improving coordination of all forces in Afghanistan. US prisons and counterterrorism operations to capture or kill high-value Taliban and Al-Qaida leaders seem likely to remain under sole US command.

On 3 July, the Secretary-General reported to the Council on the outcomes of the International Conference in Support of Afghanistan in Paris, held on 12 June. Conference participants decided UNAMA would lead all aspects of coordination within Afghanistan. His report concluded that to provide support in priority areas identified at the conference, UNAMA’s capacity would need strengthening in key areas including elections, support for the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), aid effectiveness, institution-building and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Additional personnel would also be required for overall aid coordination and the establishment of six new field offices. (A new aid coordination unit focusing on aid effectiveness and ANDS implementation will be established under UNAMA’s second pillar, which deals with development and humanitarian issues.)

On 9 July, the Council debated the security and humanitarian challenges facing Afghanistan in addition to the outcomes of the Paris Conference. The Council was briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Kai Eide and John Holmes, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Eide said the Paris Conference had created new momentum. There were two important pillars of the ANDS, the undertaking of a massive institution-building effort and the expansion of key sectors of the economy. He warned that if donors did not align resources behind the ANDS, it could not be implemented. Although UNAMA faced significant tasks, they could be addressed within the mandate specified in resolution 1806, which in March had extended UNAMA’s mandate. However, Eide said the issue was the need for more resources.

Holmes said humanitarian needs were serious and growing. Food insecurity had been exacerbated by drought and the rise in global food prices. Afghanistan had limited capacity to absorb millions of returnees. He said civilian deaths had sharply increased compared with last year and more needed to be done to protect civilians. Holmes also said the humanitarian community was finding it progressively harder to respond because of insecurity and lack of access.

During the Council debate, Afghanistan’s foreign minister, Rangin Dâdfar Spantâ, said Afghan and international forces were fighting an enemy that was transnational in composition and international in focus, based outside Afghanistan’s borders. One of the main factors contributing to the deterioration of the security situation was the de facto truce in the tribal areas in Pakistan. A joint, coherent and integrated approach undertaken by both the Afghan and Pakistani governments was required to eliminate terrorist bases, he said.

The Council issued a statement on 11 July welcoming the outcomes of the Paris Conference, including financial pledges made in support of the ANDS and the Afghan government’s commitments to promote security, good governance, the rule of law, human rights and socioeconomic development, and to pursue political and economic reform, including by taking concrete steps to combat corruption. The statement recalled the strengthened role of UNAMA and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in leading and coordinating aid. It also endorsed the recommendation for greater resources, and welcomed the further expansion of UNAMA’s field presence.

The Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan announced in July that from January to June it had cleared 38,297 antipersonnel mines, 419 anti-tank mines, 957,362 explosive remnants of war and 65.36 square kilometres of land.

According to the 2008 Afghanistan Opium Survey from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, there was a 19 percent decrease in the area under poppy cultivation in 2008 (compared to a 17 percent increase in 2007). Opium production declined by only six percent because of greater yields. The number of opium-free provinces increased from 13 to 18. Two thirds of all opium in Afghanistan is cultivated in Helmand.

A Council mission to travel to Afghanistan later in the year is under discussion.

The most likely option is for the Council to extend the authorisation of ISAF by adopting a resolution similar to 1776. That 2007 resolution, compared with the one from the year before, added language on the protection of civilians, reconstruction and reform of the Afghan prison sector, regional cooperation, and the training, mentoring and empowerment of Afghan national security forces, in particular the Afghan National Police. Given the recent large number of civilian casualties caused during coalition military operations, language on protection of civilians could be strengthened.

The Council could also purse additional options including:

  • recognising that widespread corruption is a major impediment to stability and prosperity in Afghanistan, and welcoming the Afghan government’s recent commitment to intensify its actions to combat corruption;
  • going beyond the 11 July language regarding the importance of providing UNAMA with the necessary resources and expertise to carry out its mandate, and the need for international actors to accept a UN coordination role and work more closely together and with the government of Afghanistan to build government capacity;
  • welcoming the conduct of the 23rd Tripartite Commission meeting on 19 August and encouraging future cooperation between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the coalition in efforts to secure the Afghan-Pakistan border;
  • reinforcing the international community’s commitment to the process of Afghanisation, particularly in meeting security challenges;
  • requesting more timely quarterly reports on ISAF’s activities since the latest circulated to the Council, on 12 May, only covered the period from 1 November 2007 to 31 January 2008.

Key Issues
Key issues for the Council are the deteriorating security situation, the growing number of civilian deaths and increasing threats to aid agencies. Tensions are rising in Afghanistan over the civilian death toll following coalition activities. The growing number of civilian deaths is having a serious impact on Afghan support for ISAF and US-led forces.

Another issue is how the Council can encourage the Afghan government to seriously address justice and accountability issues. Impunity for human rights violations undermines the delivery of justice, as well as security and stability in Afghanistan. Despite the Afghan government’s commitment in 2006 to implement the three-year Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice in Afghanistan, limited progress has been made.

Corruption is an issue affecting the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact and undermining confidence in the rule of law. During the Paris Conference, the government committed itself again to intensify actions to combat corruption. Council members are aware of the need for serious achievements to be made in combating corruption.

A longstanding issue is the disparity in the geographical distribution of aid. The use of aid to achieve military or political objectives is a contributing factor. This creates perverse incentives in secure areas, which perceive that insecurity attracts aid. Provincial Reconstruction Teams, being led by different countries, also have widely varying levels of funding.

Another issue is how the Council will address regional sympathies for the Taliban, which continue to erode gains made by the government and the international community. The future stability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan depends on the development of an effective strategy to counter Taliban and Al- Qaida in Pakistan’s tribal border areas.

The Council has endorsed the views of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative on the areas that require greater attention by UNAMA. One issue is whether UNAMA will receive the additional funding necessary to strengthen its role in Afghanistan. Another is whether donors will honour commitments to align their efforts behind financing and implementing the ANDS. A related issue is whether government institutions are strengthened and accountability mechanisms introduced, particularly with regard to the requirements of donors before they commit funds to Afghanistan’s budget.

Russia abstained during the vote in September 2007 to renew ISAF’s authorisation citing that it had not received clarity regarding wording sought by Japan pertaining to the maritime interception component of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Russia noted that OEF operated outside the context of the UN and that the Council had not been briefed on its activities in sufficient detail (there is no direct UN authorisation of OEF, although several resolutions have explicitly acknowledged OEF, making it clear that the action is not illegal).Since December 2001, the Japanese government had been providing fuel and water to US Navy and other coalition ships engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom. Resolution 1776, which in 2007 expressed its appreciation for the maritime interdiction component, was issued in the month preceding the expiration of Japan’s Anti-Terrorism Special Measure Law on which Japan based its activities. On 11 January, Japan enacted new legislation covering this matter, the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law. Given the controversy the naval operation has generated in Japan, and given this new law is required to be renewed yearly by the Japanese parliament, it is possible that language related to the maritime interdiction component of Operation Enduring Freedom could again be proposed for inclusion in the ISAF renewal.

Council Dynamics
Council members recognise the critical role of ISAF in assisting the Afghan government achieve peace and stability.

Viet Nam received quiet praise for its careful and inclusive handling of the debate on Afghanistan in July.

Libya continues to be concerned with the ongoing deterioration of security and the major increases in civilian casualties.

European members are also worried about the growing number of civilian casualties and the deteriorating situation. China and Russia have specifically voiced concerns that ISAF operations have caused unnecessary civilian casualties.

Italy, Belgium, Panama, Indonesia, Burkina Faso and South Africa emphasise the need for further progress in the crucial area of regional cooperation.

Panama and the UK have both raised Afghan government corruption as an issue that must be urgently resolved.

At the time of writing, it was not clear whether wording regarding the maritime interdiction component of Operation Enduring Freedom would again be included in the ISAF resolution and whether the Secretariat will take account of Russia’s concerns about a lack of briefing.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1817 (11 June 2008) was the resolution restricting the trafficking into Afghanistan of chemical precursors for narcotics production.
  • S/RES/1806 (20 March 2008) extended UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2009.
  • S/RES/1776 (19 September 2007) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 2008.
  • S/RES/1659 (15 February 2006) endorsed the Afghanistan Compact and its annexes.
  • S/RES/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2008/26 (11 July 2008) welcomed the outcome of the Paris conference, recalled the strengthened role of UNAMA and the Special Representative of the Secretary General, and endorsed the increase of resources of UNAMA to fulfil this role.

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • S/2008/434 (3 July 2008) was the special report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 1806 (2008) on UNAMA.
  • S/2008/159 (6 March 2008) was the latest UNAMA report.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNAMA’s Chief of Mission

Kai Eide

UNAMA: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Current strength: 226 international civilians, 1,078 local civilians, 16 military observers, three civilian police, 39 UN volunteers
  • Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 23 March 2009

ISAF Military Commander

General David D. McKiernan (US)

ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Total strength: about 52, 700 troops
  • Contributors of military personnel: 40 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 2008

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF): Size, Composition and Duration

  • Current strength:13,500 (this is an estimate as the troop numbers shift continuously)
  • Top contributor: US
  • Duration: 7 October 2001 to present

Full forecast

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