March 2009 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action
The mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expires on 23 March and is expected to be renewed.

The Secretary-General’s report on Afghanistan is expected in early March. His Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, is likely to brief the Council in mid-March. During his last briefing to the Council on 14 October, Eide outlined key benchmarks which he hoped UNAMA would meet in six months. These included specific criteria to measure aid effectiveness, strengthening the government’s mechanisms for combating corruption, determining the kind of police force required, designing an agricultural reform programme and solidifying the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship.

The mandate for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan expires on 13 October.

Key Recent Developments
Afghanistan continues to confront a thriving drug trade, an increasingly violent insurgency, corruption and widespread poverty. The insurgency’s influence is expanding beyond traditionally volatile areas. On 11 February the Taliban conducted simultaneous attacks against government facilities in Kabul, killing at least twenty people and injuring many others.

Human Rights
According to the Annual Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Afghanistan released on 16 January, a culture of deeply-entrenched impunity prevails. Despite reform initiatives, the judicial system remains weak, corrupt and dysfunctional. Civilian casualties rose substantially in 2008, along with further erosion of accessibility for humanitarian organisations. The report concludes there was a lack of political will to address problems of lawlessness, the widespread abuse of power, violence against women and their marginalisation and restrictions on freedom of expression.

UNAMA released its report on civilians in armed conflict on 17 February. In 2008 UNAMA recorded 2,118 civilian casualties, an increase of almost 40 percent from the previous year. Forty percent of civilian casualties occurred in the south and 55 percent of the overall death toll (1,160) was attributed to insurgents, with the vast majority killed by suicide bombers and improvised explosive devises. Coalition air strikes were responsible for 522 civilian deaths. In 2008, 38 aid workers were killed, twice as many as 2007. International security force casualties also reached their highest levels in 2008 since 2001. As of October 2008, between one-third and one-half of the country was inaccessible for most humanitarian organisations.

The new US administration describes Afghanistan as its top military priority and has launched a review of its policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan to be completed before the NATO summit in early April. Ahead of the review, the new US Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, met Afghan, Pakistani and Indian leaders during a visit in February. On 17 February, US President Barack Obama authorised a 17,000 troop increase for Afghanistan.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy visited Afghanistan in early February. Ban said the UN strategy for 2009 was to implement the June 2008 Paris Declaration focusing on investment in agriculture, energy and infrastructure and making aid more effective.

UNAMA’s budget was doubled in December by the General Assembly which granted an increase in international staff from approximately 1,500 to 2,000. The increases reflect the need for more resources to enable UNAMA to effectively execute its tasks under resolution 1806 and the Paris Declaration, including strengthening capacity to support electoral assistance, improving governance and institution-building, supporting the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), expanding UNAMA’s presence in the provinces and promoting donor coordination and aid effectiveness.

A decision was taken in October by Eide to establish an Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) presence in Afghanistan separate from the Humanitarian Affairs Unit in UNAMA. The decision was based on perceptions held by the humanitarian community that OCHA’s neutrality was compromised while operating within UNAMA and concerns that assistance would be driven by political objectives rather than needs. OCHA, which reports to the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and to the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is part of the UN country team.

A Council mission visited Afghanistan, including Kabul and Herat, from 21 to 28 November. While meeting the Council delegation, President Hamid Karzai raised issues of terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, civilian casualties, institutional strengthening and international donor coordination. The delegation noted progress made in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, governance (as evidenced by the October cabinet reshuffle), reducing opium cultivation and the government’s commitment to improve subnational governance.

The Independent Electoral Commission announced presidential elections would be held on 20 August despite the constitutional requirement that they be conducted within thirty to sixty days before the last day of the president’s term (22 May). Insecurity, the harsh winter and lack of funds seem to have prompted the postponement. Controversy has arisen as to whether the Electoral Commission has the authority to change the election date in this way. There are moves to have both houses of parliament endorse the postponement in order to grant legitimacy to an extension of the president’s term. Voter registration commenced in the remaining provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz and Uruzgan in late January.

The joint Afghanistan Opium Rapid Assessment Survey by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime and the Afghan Ministry of Counter-Narcotics released in February forecasts a decrease in opium poppy cultivation in 2009, including in the south, as a result of stronger efforts by the government, high food prices and low opium prices. Eighteen of the 34 provinces in 2008 are likely to remain poppy free in 2009 according to the Survey. NATO defence ministers agreed in October to authorise troops to engage narcotics facilities and facilitators providing material support for the insurgency. Since the new rules were agreed upon in early February, 11 drug laboratories have been dismantled, $50 million worth of drugs have been seized and a number of traffickers have been arrested.

On 6 January the foreign ministers from Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation. The declaration agreed to strengthen communication between government departments, armed forces and security agencies. It also agreed to develop a joint strategy for combating terrorism and to establish closer cooperation to counter militancy and extremism in the region.

The most likely option is for the Council to extend the current mandate of UNAMA for a further 12 months.

An option which would galvanise attention on the multilateral capacity that UNAMA can bring to bear would be for President Obama’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan and former US Permanent Representative Richard Holbrooke to brief the Council on some of the findings from his recent assessment mission.

With continued tension over the number of civilian casualties resulting from coalition military operations, stronger language on protection of civilians in a new resolution to extend UNAMA’s mandate is an option. This might mirror language adopted in resolution 1833, extending ISAF’s mandate, which called on international forces to take additional robust efforts to minimise the risk of civilian casualties.

A further option is to modify the language on the coordination of humanitarian assistance to reflect the creation of an OCHA office separate from the UNAMA structure.

The Council could also pursue additional options including:

Key Issues
A key issue is whether UNAMA is fully executing its mandate and playing an effective role in leading and coordinating international civilian aid efforts in Afghanistan.

An issue which is closely related is whether the international community is discharging its shared responsibility for aid delivery and coordination with UNAMA and whether donors have honoured their commitments made at the Paris Conference in June to deliver assistance in a more coordinated way and increasingly through the national budget.

A further issue is whether the government is making progress in strengthening government institutions and introducing accountability mechanisms to provide donors with confidence to commit funds to Afghanistan’s central budget.

An underlying issue for UNAMA is the deteriorating security situation. This is impairing reconstruction and humanitarian efforts and increasing the toll on civilians, humanitarian workers and security forces. A related issue is the growing anger and frustration among Afghans with the international community, arising from slow progress in development and civilian casualties caused by coalition military operations (particularly air strikes).

A key political issue is how best to involve all the regional stakeholders in a comprehensive regional strategy. This would need to address militant sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, tensions between India and Pakistan and Iran’s concerns that Afghanistan could be used as a staging area against it.

Other key issues include:

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Council Dynamics
Council members support the role of UNAMA in Afghanistan.

While Council members support a more comprehensive regional approach to the crisis in Afghanistan, there are differing views about what role the Council can play in achieving this given concerns by India and Pakistan that their respective situation not be on the Council’s direct agenda.

Council members also support the idea of an Afghan-led national reconciliation plan. However, views differ on the breadth of such a strategy. While there is unanimity that negotiations cannot be undertaken with Al-Qaida, some members believe it is important to support reconciliation efforts with parts of the Taliban. Others take a more cautious approach and object in particular to initiatives involving anyone on the Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions list. There are also differences as to whether any reconciliation efforts should be primarily at the local level or whether they need to be more comprehensive.

Civilian casualties are a sensitive issue between members. During the ISAF mandate renewal consultations in September, there was a long debate on the strength of the language regarding protection of civilians.

For 2007-2008, Italy had the lead on Afghanistan. With its departure from the Council, Japan will assume this role initially followed in 2010 by Turkey. Given their history of support for Afghanistan both Japan and Turkey are expected to play strong roles in the Council’s consideration of Afghanistan.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1833 (22 September 2008) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 2009.
  • 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/1659 (15 February 2006) endorsed the Afghanistan Compact (on international cooperation with Afghanistan) and its annexes.
  • S/RES/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • 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

  • A/HRC/10/23 (16 January 2009) was the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on achievements in technical assistance in the field of human rights.
  • S/2008/782 (12 December 2008) was the report of the Security Council mission to Afghanistan, 21 to 28 November 2008.
  • S/2008/695 (10 November 2008) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan.
  • S/2008/617 (24 September 2008) was the latest UNAMA report.
  • S/2008/434 (3 July 2008) was the special report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 1806 on UNAMA.


Other Relevant Facts

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

Kai Eide

UNAMA: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Strength (as of 31 December): 250 international civilians, 1,163 local civilians, 16 military observers, five civilian police, 41 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 56,000 troops
  • Contributors of military personnel: Forty NATO and non-NATO countries
  • Current top contributors: US, UK, Germany, Canada, and Italy.
  • Duration: 20 December 2001 to present; mandate expires on 13 October 2009

Operation Enduring Freedom: 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

Useful Additional Resources

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