October 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2011
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Expected Council Action
In October the Council will consider extending the authorisation for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) 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.

Given that the Council will have discussed Afghanistan at the end of September, a wider discussion is not expected.t

Key Recent Developments
In his latest report on Afghanistan, released on 21 September 2011 the Secretary-General highlighted the volatile political and security situation and the increasing number of civilian casualties. He also pointed out that this creates a challenging environment to operate in and to deliver on mandates. He emphasised the need for a comprehensive approach to transition and in this context, the importance of development, governance and rule-of-law.

The security situation continued to deteriorate with more complex urban attacks and high-profile assassinations in August and September. On 13 September, ISAF troops were called in following an attack by insurgents on the US embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul. At least 7 people were killed and 19 wounded.

On 20 September, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, chairman of the High Peace Council, was killed at his home in Kabul while meeting with the Taliban. He had been leading the reconciliation efforts for the government. In condemning the terrorist attack, Council members reiterated their support for the Afghan government and its efforts to advance the peace and reconciliation process.

Foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul addressed the General Assembly on 22 September on behalf of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had returned to Kabul following the assassination of Rabbani. Rassoul said all “parallel structures” created by the international community, including security, governance and development arrangements, would have to be dismantled to make way for indigenous institutions. While welcoming the review of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate, he said that it would need to be adjusted to the “requirements of Afghan sovereignty”.

A New Silk Road ministerial meeting was held on 22 September in New York, co-chaired by the foreign ministers of Germany, Afghanistan and the US. Afghanistan’s immediate and proximate neighbours, as well as international donors, attended. The New Silk Road project hopes to establish a network of trade corridors linking the countries of Central and South Asia.

In early September, the top two executives of Kabul Bank resigned amidst allegations of corruption, triggering a run on the bank as depositors tried to withdraw their cash. By 8 September, this led to clashes with the police.

In early September, ISAF announced that it was ahead of schedule in training 350,000 Afghan security personnel by November 2012. The next areas to be transferred to Afghan control are expected to be identified in early October.

NATO suspended the transfer of detainees to some Afghan jails following reports that prisoners were being tortured. A UN report on human rights violations within prisons run by the Afghan police is expected to be published soon.

From June through August, UNAMA documented 971 civilian dead and 1,411 injured, an increase of five percent in civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2010. August also saw the highest number of US casualties in a month since 2001. Sixty-six US troops died, 30 of them in a helicopter attack in eastern Afghanistan. Overall the total number of security incidents from January to August were up 39 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

Human Rights-Related Developments
The UN human rights expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, reported to the May session of the Human Rights Council on progress made by Afghanistan in implementing recommendations made by his predecessor in 2008. Heyns welcomed moderate advances in the area of legal reform but found that extrajudicial killings remain in high numbers. He said the government needs to engage more actively in following up on the recommendations in order to improve the human rights situation and reduce the “unacceptably” high number of civilian casualties caused by the armed conflict.

Key Issues
A continuing issue is the complex security environment and the resilient and adaptable insurgency, particularly as troops from a number of countries prepare to withdraw. 

A closely related issue is what an insecure environment means for UNAMA and its security needs as well as its ability to carry out its mandate.

Another ongoing issue is the high number of civilian casualties and the impact on the Afghan people’s trust in ISAF and the Afghan government.

An emerging issue relates to governance, particularly in the light of the Kabul Bank crisis, and its impact on economic development and future investments.

Also an issue for the Council is how Rabbani’s death will affect the peace process and if there is a need for a greater UN involvement in the reconciliation dialogue. UNAMA’s Salaam Support group has been providing assistance to the High Peace Council and promoting confidence-building measures.

A future issue for UNAMA is what role it can play in building civilian capacity, particularly in the areas of governance and development.

Also a future issue is the transformation of the provincial reconstruction teams and what sort of role UNAMA can play in this process.

Finally, also an issue is what the upcoming Istanbul and Bonn conferences (in November and December) can achieve and how the outcome of the two conferences might affect UNAMA. There appears to be increasing pressure for a significant outcome from Bonn, but it is unclear if political developments in the next few months will allow for real progress in the peace process.

Options available to the Council include:

  • simply renewing the ISAF authorisation with little change except an update addressing key events;
  • including stronger language on the deteriorating security situation and civilian casualties;
  • having an initial discussion on any preliminary observations from the Secretariat on the review of UNAMA’s mandated activities and UN support in Afghanistan as requested in resolution 1974 and due at the end of 2011; and
  • engaging in a wider discussion of the deteriorating security situation.

Council Dynamics
At press time Council members were focused on the September UNAMA debate and the ministerial week at the General Assembly and had not given much consideration to ISAF’s reauthorisation. However, there appears to be a general sense that no major issues are likely to emerge. There also seems to be a sense that there would be consensus on not making any real changes to ISAF’s mandate.

Most members expect the resolution to be simply updated to reflect relevant events since October 2010. In previous years various members have pushed for stronger language on civilian casualties and counter-narcotics, but most members seem to feel that the current language is satisfactory.

Germany is the lead country on Afghanistan until the end of 2012.

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 Report


  • S/PV.6574 (6 July 2011) was the July open debate.
  • S/2011/364 (17 June 2011) was the ISAF report covering 1 February to 30 April.

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 July 2011): 420 international civilians, 1,549 local civilians, 12 military observers, 3 police, 29 UN volunteers

Duration: 28 March 2002 to present; mandate expires on 23 March 2012

ISAF Military Commander           

Gen. John R. Allen (US)

Senior Civilian Representative

Ambassador Simon Gass (UK)

ISAF: Size, Composition and Duration

Total strength (as of 9 September 2011): about 130,670 troops; 28 Provincial Reconstruction Teams

Contributors of military personnel: 48 NATO and non-NATO countries

Current top contributors: US, UK, Germany, France and Italy

Duration: 20 December 2001 to present; mandate expires on 13 October 2011

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