January 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 December 2009
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Expected Council Action
In early January, the Council is expected to be briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide. The Secretary-General’s report, expected at the end of December, is likely to cover political developments including the recent elections, security, mission support, the benchmarks presented in the last report and a proposal for a strengthened role of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) in aid coordination.

UNAMA’s mandate expires on 23 March.

Key Recent Developments
US President Barack Obama on 1 December 2009 announced a revised US strategy for Afghanistan. It invokes a military surge, enhanced efforts in building the capabilities of Afghan national forces and a target date for beginning reductions of US forces in 18 months. US officials stress, however, that the mid-2011 date for a gradual transition to Afghan forces is conditional on the security situation and the readiness of the Afghan forces to take over.

On 2 December 2009 the Secretary-General welcomed the new US plan. He said the UN remains committed to supporting a transition to increased Afghan ownership, responsibility and leadership for peace and development.

In the first half of 2010 there will be a series of events relating to Afghanistan on the international stage. The first will be a conference in London on 28 January, which is expected to firm up the timeline for transferring responsibility from coalition to Afghan forces and improving coordination of international aid. A follow-up conference in Kabul is expected by the middle of the year.

In Brussels, on 5 December 2009, NATO foreign ministers announced that NATO would commit an additional 7,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. NATO foreign ministers from countries with troops in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) issued a statement reemphasising that the ISAF mission is essential and expressing continued support for UNAMA.

On 9 December 2009 Eide called for key partners in Afghanistan to work together in a more coordinated and streamlined way to support national development. He also warned against quick-impact projects rather than long-term sustainable solutions. Earlier, he had called for a transition strategy focused on building Afghanistan institutions.

An anti-corruption conference initiated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai was held from 15-17 December 2009. A resolution issued at the end of the conference called for the government to stop providing immunity to corrupt officials and to encourage accountability in its institutions.

On 19 December 2009 Karzai nominated 23 cabinet ministers. Many of the key cabinet posts such as defence, interior, finance and education were not changed. Some Afghan groups were disappointed by the lack of change in the government line-up. ISAF contributors were generally approving of the overall selection. At press time the Afghan parliament had not voted on the new cabinet.

Eide announced on 11 December 2009 that he would not renew his contract when it expires in March. Press reports indicate that the Secretary-General may announce Eide’s successor at the London conference.

Peter Galbraith, who was dismissed from his position as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan on 1 October 2009, has taken legal steps challenging the termination of his appointment. The position has yet to be filled.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 11 November, during an open debate on protection of civilians in the Security Council, a statement on behalf of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed ongoing concerns about the climate of impunity in Afghanistan. She urged that the legal framework governing conflict-related detention should be brought into line with international law. She said that failure to hold “to account those responsible for the gravest crimes over more than three decades of war and the resulting climate of impunity” is a significant factor in the political turmoil and growing insecurity in Afghanistan.” (S/PV.6216)

A key issue at this point is whether and how UNAMA should play a stronger role in civilian coordination. Among the questions raised are:

  • What is needed to allow UNAMA to more effectively coordinate aid?
  • Can this be done within UNAMA’s mandate or will it need to be changed?
  • What are the implications for the UNAMA budget?
  • How meaningful is it to speak of UNAMA having overall responsibility for coordination of civilian activity given the rumours of the likely appointment of a new civilian coordinator structure for ISAF?

A related issue is whether new modalities will need to be developed for coordinating coordinators or whether the focus should be on finding ways of using the current structures more effectively.

An interesting question is whether the Council can establish a role for itself in developing and promoting a comprehensive vision for coordination in Afghanistan. One of the key problems appears to be a lack of overall political strategy and the need for collective leadership involving not only UNAMA but also member states perhaps utilising the inclusive methodology applied in the Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific configurations.

A related issue is how UNAMA should be encouraged to begin building better ties with key players in Afghan society including civil society, human rights groups and former Taliban.

Security remains a serious underlying issue. At press time, UNAMA’s budget and the Secretary-General’s request for additional security funding for vulnerable UN locations remained to be approved by the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

Other continuing issues include accelerating training of Afghan forces and tackling corruption. An underlying issue is what the UN can do to support these efforts.

One option for the Council in January would be a statement addressing key issues and leading the way for the London conference, especially on the issue of the need for stronger civilian coordination.

Other options include:

  • a debate offering members a chance to set out their views on strengthening UNAMA’s coordination role;
  • requesting a briefing from the Secretary-General following the London conference and reengaging in a more detailed debate with a view to some Council action in February; and
  • requesting the UN to host a wider more inclusive round of preparatory meetings in New York with stakeholders to discuss strengthening UNAMA’s coordination role ahead of its mandate renewal in March.

Council Dynamics
Most members are following developments in Afghanistan closely but with little focus on the UN discussions. The outcome of the 28 January conference is already being prepared but few Council members are yet ready to focus on the implications for UNAMA. Some appear to feel that there is no need for change as UNAMA’s role could be strengthened and reoriented within the current mandate.

Many Council members strongly support UNAMA having a leading role in Afghanistan. The US has said that it sees the UN role in Afghanistan as vital and is particularly supportive of UNAMA’s expansion of its provincial offices.

A number of members are particularly concerned about UN staff security and are keen to hear more details of the Secretary-General’s plans for improved security.

In January, Turkey takes over from Japan as the lead country in the Council on Afghanistan and is expected to play an active role on this issue in 2010.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1890 (8 October 2009) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 2010.
  • 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/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2009/28 (29 October 2009) condemned the terrorist attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul on 28 October.

Selected Secretary-General’s Report


  • S/PV.6216 (11 November 2009) on protection of civilians.
  • SC/9784 (6 November 2009) was on the Afghanistan elections.
  • SC/9778 (28 October 2009) was on the terrorist attack in Kabul.


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

Kai Eide (Norway)

UNAMA: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Strength (as of 31 October 2009): 344 international civilians, 1,266 local civilians, 17 military observers, eight civilian police, 53 UN volunteers
  • Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 23 March 2010

ISAF Military Commander

Army General Stanley McChrystal (US)

ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Total strength: about 71,030 troops
  • Contributors of military personnel: 43 NATO and non-NATO countries
  • Current top contributors: US, UK, Germany, France, Canada and Italy
  • Duration: 20 December 2001 to present; mandate expires on 13 October 2010

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