June 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 May 2009
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action

In June the Council is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s first report on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since the 23 March adoption of resolution 1868, which requested that these reports include benchmarks for measuring and tracking the mission’s mandate. The resolution also requested more frequent reports (every three months as opposed to six).

No formal action is necessary, but a presidential statement is possible given the ongoing instability and the significance of the upcoming elections.

UNAMA’s mandate expires on 23 March 2010 and the mandate for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expires on 13 October 2009.

Key Recent Developments
NATO figures indicate a 64 percent rise in Taliban attacks between January and April. The increase has been attributed to a milder winter and increased instability in the Indo-Afghan border region. In mid-May there were suicide bombings near Afghan government buildings and a US military base in Khost province. Insurgents also targeted trucks carrying NATO supplies near Peshawar.

US President Barack Obama on 27 March unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan. The US will now treat Pakistan and Afghanistan as a single integrated challenge and engage them in a trilateral framework. Other elements of the Obama plan include increased resources for training and support for the Afghan national army and Afghan national police. To bolster civilian efforts, Obama suggested a new contact group on Afghanistan and Pakistan bringing together those with a stake in the region. (This could include some NATO allies, central Asian neighbours, Gulf states, Russia, India, China and perhaps even Iran.)

Civilian casualties continue to be a point of tension between the US and the Afghan government. On 6 May the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Kai Eide, expressed serious concern over reports of civilian casualties and fighting in Farah province. On 10 May Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the US of failing to abide by a “high moral” standard in its air strikes and demanded their cessation.

During Karzai’s visit to Washington on 6 May, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her regret and sympathy about the civilian deaths. General David Petraeus, chief of the US central command, on 11 May said the US would review the use of air strikes in Afghanistan.

On 11 May, citing the need for a wider change of strategy, the US replaced ISAF commander, General David McKiernan with Army Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a counterinsurgency expert.

Nominations for the presidential and provincial elections closed on 8 May with 44 candidates, including Karzai, in the running and 3,324 candidates putting themselves forward for the provincial council elections.

In the last few months there have been multilateral events with an Afghanistan-focus.

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) sponsored a conference on Afghanistan in Moscow on 27 March. The conference focused on key regional challenges facing Afghanistan, including the illegal drug trade, terrorism and organised criminal groups.
  • A high-level conference on the future of Afghanistan was held at The Hague on 31 March. The conference was co-chaired by Eide and the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen.
  • The third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan was held in Islamabad on 13-14 May. Twenty-four countries and 18 regional organisations attended. They endorsed the need for a comprehensive approach and international participation in Afghanistan’s development and various regional initiatives.
  • On 19 May Iran hosted a summit with the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • NATO heads of state and government met in Strasbourg on 3-4 April and agreed to new initiatives on Afghanistan. These include an expansion of training and support for the Afghan national security forces, enhanced engagement with neighbouring countries and a more integrated approach to working with the international community and the Afghan government in implementing the Afghan National Development Strategy.

Options

One option is a presidential statement, possibly with the following elements:

  • welcoming the benchmarks developed by the Secretary-General and providing suggestions for measuring them;
  • highlighting the importance of credible, free and fair elections;
  • reminding the Afghan government of its commitment to fight corruption;
  • acknowledging the importance of regional cooperation and stressing the need for action following the third Regional Economic Cooperation Conference;
  • calling on international donors and the Afghan government to adhere to their commitments to help finance and implement the Afghan National Development Strategy; and
  • focusing on the importance of the upcoming elections.

Other possible options are:

  • requesting the Secretary-General to focus future reports on key developments and be more forward-looking; and
  • requesting a briefing in early August ahead of the election in order to be kept abreast of latest developments.

Key Issues
The deteriorating security situation is a continuing issue of concern to the Council and UNAMA. Reconstruction and humanitarian efforts have become increasingly difficult in areas under constant attack.

A major issue is how to support the August presidential and provisional council elections and encourage that they be credible, free and fair. There are already warning signs of corruption in the registration of candidates. A related problem is how to handle electoral irregularities.

A concurrent issue is ensuring the safety and security of Afghan civilians during the elections.

Another issue is diminishing support from the Afghan people for ISAF and US-led forces as the civilian death toll rises. NATO argues that civilian casualties were down 44 percent in the first four months of 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier. But the large numbers of casualties from recent air strikes have reinforced the perception among Afghans that the international forces are not doing enough to protect civilians. This could become an issue in the elections.

A further issue is the dispute between Council members over the conclusions to the Secretary-General’s first report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan. The Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, which has been negotiating conclusions on this issue since January, has been deadlocked over differences in language.

A key issue is whether having regular reports on benchmarks will help UNAMA execute its mandate in a more effective manner, and whether this is the most efficient way of measuring and tracking implementation of the mandate.

Other continuing issues include donors honouring commitments to align their efforts behind financing and implementing the Afghan National Development Strategy, and whether government institutions can be strengthened and accountability mechanisms can be introduced to provide donors with confidence to commit funds to Afghanistan’s central budget.

Council Dynamics
Many Council members are showing a stronger interest in Afghanistan. The US, with its new strategy and increased focus on civilian efforts in Afghanistan, is now paying greater attention to the UN’s role there.

Elected members like Turkey and Japan, the lead country on the issue in the Council, are keen to play a strong role. Libya has pushed for stronger language on national reconciliation.

The issue of civilian casualties may become divisive in the Council. Russia and China continue to feel that ISAF operations have caused unnecessary civilian deaths. Other members such as Mexico and Costa Rica have been consistent in voicing concern over protection of civilian issues and may also want greater attention paid to this issue. Austria has also voiced the need for further efforts to minimise civilian casualties.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1868 (23 March 2009) extended UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2010 and asked for reports with benchmarks every three months.
  • S/RES/1833 (22 September 2008) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 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

  • S/2009/135 (10 March 2009) was the Secretary-General’s UNAMA report.
  • 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/2008/434 (3 July 2008) was the special report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 1806 on UNAMA.

 

 

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

Kai Eide

UNAMA: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Strength (as of 31 March 2009): 291 international civilians, 1,169 local civilians, 16 military observers, seven civilian police, 32 UN volunteers
  • Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 23 March 2010

ISAF Military Commander

Army Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal (US)

ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Total strength: about 58,390 troops
  • Contributors of military personnel: 42 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

Full forecast