October 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2010
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action

The Council will consider extending the authorisation for the international force in Afghanistan ahead of its expiry on 13 October. Informal discussions on a resolution renewing ISAF’s mandate followed by a formal meeting to adopt the resolution are expected.

At press time no wider discussion was expected due to the fact that the Council had met on 29 September to discuss developments in Afghanistan.

Key Recent Developments
On 18 September parliamentary elections were held in Afghanistan. Over 4 million people turned out to vote. More than 5,000 polling stations were open for voting. About 1,000 had to remain shut for security reasons.

On 19 September the Secretary-General praised the Afghan voters for showing courage and determination in exercising their right to vote. He also acknowledged the leadership of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and called on all parties to use the appropriate legal channels to file complaints.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, on 21 September commended Afghanistan’s electoral authorities on the conduct of the parliamentary polls and said that there had been significant improvements in the organisation of the elections. He stressed that the post-election period was also crucial and that time was needed to check for irregularities and verify votes. At press time provisional results are expected on 8 October.

By the 21 September deadline for submission of complaints the ECC had received over 3,000 formal complaints of fraud and irregularities before and during the election. These included allegations of multiple voting, using fake identities and stealing ballot boxes. On 27 September the IEC ordered a partial recount of votes from seven of the 34 provinces.

The security situation has continued to deteriorate. The death toll for ISAF rose on 21 September to 529, exceeding the 521 deaths in 2009. Incidents involving improvised explosive devices have increased, as have complex suicide attacks.

During the election campaign period, there was an escalation of violence with at least 19 election-related deaths, including four candidates. The Taliban threatened widespread violence on election day and urged people to stay home. There were rocket and bomb attacks on polling day, with at least 22 people killed.

The Netherlands began withdrawing its ISAF contingent in early August. It is the first NATO country to withdraw its entire military contingent. Canada has announced that it will withdraw in 2011. Poland plans to withdraw its troops in 2012.

On 29 September the Council was briefed by de Mistura on developments. He said that events over the year like the London Conference, the peace jirga, the Kabul Conference and the recent elections were stepping stones leading towards full Afghan exercise of sovereign authority. He noted the elections marked an important step towards strengthening democratic institutions but that it was too early to pronounce success. The foreign minister of Afghanistan also participated in the debate.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 21 May the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted its concluding observations on Afghanistan’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee acknowledged that Afghanistan is a country in transition and that the destruction of institutions and infrastructure seriously impedes the implementation of the rights enshrined in the covenant. Nonetheless, the Committee expressed concern that the covenant had not been fully incorporated into domestic law. It was also concerned that Afghanistan had not yet developed effective measures to tackle widespread corruption and impunity. The committee recommended that the government adopt a legal framework to combat corruption and impunity in conformity with international standards, educate lawmakers, civil servants and law enforcement officers on the economic and social costs of corruption and take measures to prosecute cases of alleged corruption. 

Key Issues
An issue for the Council is how to tailor the ISAF resolution to reflect the new policy directions agreed upon at the London and Kabul conferences this year, and link this with the revised priorities for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) adopted in March.

A closely related issue is how the deterioration in security affects the Afghan population’s confidence in the international security forces and the Afghan government’s ability to uphold the rule of law.

A further possible issue is civilian casualties. A recent report from UNAMA on civilian casualties has shown that the number of civilian casualties caused by ISAF dropped by 30 percent in the first half of 2009 compared to the same period last year. However, due to Taliban action overall numbers have increased.

A future issue is whether the goal of having Afghan troops ready to lead in security matters by 2014 is realistic.

Options
One option is a simple resolution renewing the ISAF authorisation similar to resolution 1890 adopted last October.

Another option is a resolution that reflects the changing priorities, particularly the focus on shifting to Afghan-led security. A further option is to include language on protection of civilians reflecting the recent UNAMA findings.

Language on the outcome of the parliamentary elections is also an option in the resolution if the final results are out by the time the Council meets, or perhaps separately in a subsequent statement.

An option for improving the Council’s monitoring of ISAF developments is to request that the ISAF reports be synchronised with the Secretary-General’s quarterly reports on UNAMA. (The last report received on 19 August covers the period 1 February to 30 April 2010, whereas the latest Secretary-General’s report covers developments from June to September.)

Another option in line with better understanding of the political-military aspects of NATO’s work in Afghanistan is to ask the NATO senior civilian coordinator, Mark Sedwill, to brief the Council.

Council Dynamics
At press time Council members were largely focused on the September UNAMA debate and had not begun to focus on the ISAF’s reauthorisation. However, no major problems were foreseen regarding the substantive issue of renewal.

In the past there has sometimes been debate over the issue of civilian casualties. Last year, two elected members, no longer on the Council, pushed for more language on protection of civilians to be included in this resolution. This was met with resistance from some members who felt that they could not accept any language that put ISAF and the Taliban on the same level. Given the recent reports on the number of casualties this year, there may be some members who may wish to open up discussion about stronger language on the need to protect civilians.

A key issue this year appears to be counter-narcotics. Some members are keen for stronger language on countering illicit production and trafficking of drugs in the ISAF resolution.

Most members seem open to including language relating to the London and Kabul conferences but have yet to formulate appropriate language and positions.

Turkey is the lead country on Afghanistan till the end of 2010.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1917 (22 March 2010) extended UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2011.
  • S/RES/1890 (8 October 2009) extended the ISAF mandate until 13 October 2010.
  • S/RES/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA..

Selected Secretary-General’s Report

Other

  • S/PV.6394 (29 September 2010) was the Council June debate on Afghanistan.
  • SC/9992 (23 July 2010) was the Council press statement on the Kabul Conference.
  • S/2010/353 (21 June 2010) was the quarterly ISAF report from 1 November 2009 to 31 January 2010.

Other Relevant Facts

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

Staffan de Mistura (Sweden)

UNAMA: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Strength (as of 31 May 2010): 338 international civilians, 1,380 local civilians, 16 military observers, 48 UN volunteers
  • Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 23 March 2011.

ISAF Military Commander

General David Petraeus (US)

Senior Civilian Representative

Ambassador Mark Sedwill (GBR)

ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Total strength (as of 30 September 2010): about 119,819 troops
  • Contributors of military personnel: 47 NATO and non-NATO countries
  • Current top contributors: US, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Canada
  • Duration: 20 December 2001 to present; mandate expires on 13 October 201

Operation Enduring Freedom

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

Useful Additional Sources

Afghanistan: Mid Year Report 2010—Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, UNAMA Human Rights, August, 2010. http://info.publicintelligence.net/UN-Afghan-Civilians-2010.pdf

Kabul Conference Communiqué,  20 July 2010.

ISAF’s Strategic Vision: Declaration by the Heads of State and Government of the Nations contributing to the UN-mandated NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_8444.htm

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