July 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2011
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to hold an open debate on Afghanistan, during which it will receive a briefing from the head of UNAMA, Staffan de Mistura, drawing upon the latest quarterly report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan. UNAMA’s mandate expires on 23 March 2012.

No outcome is expected.

Key Recent Developments
On 22 June US President Barack Obama announced the US would reduce its troop presence (currently over 90,000) in Afghanistan by 33,000 over the next 12 months. US troops would continue to reduce their presence until a complete transition to Afghan responsibility for security in mid-2014. France indicated it would likewise drawdown its forces (currently just under 4,000) along the same timeline.

On 22 March the Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate for 12 months. The Council’s negotiations seemed to focus on how best to incorporate Afghan government views on UNAMA’s role in the eventual transition to full Afghan ownership, assistance for reconciliation and reintegration processes and broader UN assistance to Afghan development priorities. 

The foreign minister of Afghanistan, Zalmai Rassoul, had written to the Council on 1 March, outlining the government’s requests for UNAMA’s mandate. The letter was not distributed as a document of the Council (i.e. made public), but it is understood that Rassoul emphasised the importance of the UN “delivering as one” in Afghanistan by better integrating the work of UNAMA and UN funds and programmes, as well as the UN better coordinating other international assistance. A key request of the Afghan government was a comprehensive review of UNAMA’s mandate. 

In the new mandate, the Council requested the Secretary-General to conduct a comprehensive review of UNAMA’s mandated activities and UN support in Afghanistan by the end of 2011, with a view to informing the Council’s review of UNAMA’s mandate in March 2012. The review would be conducted at around the same time as the Bonn international conference on Afghanistan, scheduled for November, allowing the outcomes of Bonn to feed into the review process. The Council also strengthened the language on the importance of Afghan leadership and the transition process, women’s rights, sustainability of electoral processes and the threat posed by illicit drugs.

On 17 June the Council adopted resolutions 1988 and 1989, which split the sanctions regimes set up under resolution 1267 into two separate regimes covering the Afghanistan Taliban (resolution 1988) and Al-Qaida (resolution 1989). Resolution 1988 replaces resolution 1267 as far as Afghanistan is concerned and the new sanctions regime is now a country-specific one for Afghanistan. This gives both the Council and Afghan authorities greater flexibility in its implementation. The resolution recognised that the sanctions regime can play a part in the Afghan-led reconciliation processes and, for example, detail delisting criteria for reconciled individuals, as well as re-listing criteria for reconciled individuals who resume activities proscribed by the sanctions regime.

Violence has continued in Afghanistan in recent months, as the country enters what is known as the “spring/summer fighting season”. Violence has been particularly targeted against Afghan police. In April, Taliban fighters carried out a string of bomb attacks, assassinations and suicide attacks in Kandahar city. On 15 April a suicide attacker dressed in a police uniform detonated explosives in the police headquarters, killing the police chief of Kandahar. 

On 25 April more than 541 inmates escaped from the jail in Kandahar city, including about 106 Taliban commanders. Taliban forces facilitated the escape by digging a 360-metre tunnel under the prison from a nearby residential compound. The tunnel took more than five months to dig. 

On 7 to 9 May approximately 60 Taliban fighters launched a coordinated assault on government installations in Kandahar, effectively paralysing the city. Senior police in Kandahar blamed the prison escape for the raid, noting that the complex nature of the assault was due to the presence of many of the experienced fighters and commanders who had escaped. Most of the 25 insurgents killed were identified as prison escapees.

On 11 June a suicide bomber attacked a police station in Khost province, killing two policemen and a civilian and wounding 12 others. On 22 June at least six policemen were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Ghazni province.

UNAMA’s director of human rights announced on 11 June that more civilians were killed in May than in any other month since 2007, when UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties. At least 368 civilians were killed in combat in May, with anti-government elements responsible for 301, or 82 percent, of the deaths and pro-government forces, including NATO forces, responsible for 45 deaths, or 12 percent. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) set by anti-government elements were responsible for 41 percent of the total number killed. Coalition airstrikes were blamed for 3 percent of the total deaths. On the same day the figures were announced, a roadside IED killed 15 civilians, including eight children and four women, in Kandahar province. 

On 25 June a suicide attack on a hospital in Logar province, south of Kabul near the Pakistan border, killed 38 people, including pregnant women, children and medical staff.

On 28 June a coordinated assault by up to nine suicide attackers on the Intercontinental hotel in Kabul resulted in the deaths of two police and 11 civilians.  Afghan forces fought the attackers for five hours, eventually calling in NATO support.

UNAMA was directly affected by violence on 1 April when the UN compound in Mazar-i-Sharif in the northern province of Balkh came under attack by armed elements within a crowd that had gathered to protest the burning of a Koran by an American pastor in Florida weeks earlier. Armed elements overwhelmed the guards at the compound, killing four Nepalese Gurkhas, and then hunted for international staff within the compound.   Three staff members were executed. 

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council in July is whether the meeting can be used to build up momentum ahead of the Bonn conference, particularly on the UN’s role in political and development processes in Afghanistan relevant to the transition to full Afghan ownership and responding to the Afghan government concerns in Rassoul’s letter of 1 March.

A further issue, following the adoption of resolution 1988, is how further to integrate the work of the 1988 Sanctions Committee with the broader political consideration in the Council of the situation in Afghanistan, particularly as it pertains to Afghan-led efforts to reconcile with former members of the Taliban. A related procedural issue may be to elect a chair of the new 1988 Committee.

Options
One option is a presidential statement following the debate highlighting key political issues relevant to the work of the UN in Afghanistan, drawing upon observations from the Secretary-General’s report and key points in Rassoul’s letter.

Council Dynamics
Although it is only a short period of time since the Council’s detailed discussions surrounding the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate, the US decision to downsize and growing domestic political opposition to the war could add new angles to the debate. However, few Council members seem to be expecting any new Council decisions, with the focus remaining on the importance of transition to Afghan authority. Previously some members had proposed pushing Afghanistan reports and debates to every four months rather than every three to avoid unnecessary repetition.  Other members, however, preferred to maintain the current reporting cycle given the dynamic situation on the ground.

The issue of reconciliation with the Taliban remains a highly sensitive issue for a number of Council members, particularly with respect to domestic approaches to counter-terrorism. It seems some members are already wondering what it will mean for the Bonn conference, and the implications if known Taliban attend.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1974 (22 March 2011) renewed UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2012.
  • S/RES/1943 (13 October 2010) extended ISAF’s mandate until 13 October 2011.
  • S/RES/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA.

Latest Secretary-General’s Reports

Other

  • SC/10216 (1 April 2011) was the press statement issued after the attack on the UN premises in Mazar-i-Sharif.
  • S/PV.6497 (17 March 2011) was the March open debate.
  • S/2011/124 (10 March 2011) was the quarterly ISAF report from 1 November 2010 to 31 January 2011.

 

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 30 April 2011): 402 international civilians, 1,643 local civilians, 11 military observers, 2 police, 60 UN volunteers
  • Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 23 March 2012

ISAF Military Commander           

Gen. David Petraeus (US)

Senior Civilian Representative

Ambassador Simon Gass (UK)

ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration

  • Total strength (as of 6 June 2011): about 132,457 troops; 28 Provincial Reconstruction Teams
  • Contributors of military personnel: 48 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 2011

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