December 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 December 2011
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Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to receive a briefing from Staffan de Mistura, the Head of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), on the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on UNAMA and hold a debate on Afghanistan. No outcome is anticipated. (While resolution resolution 1974  requests the Secretary-General to “conduct a comprehensive review of UNAMA’s mandated activities and the United Nations’ support in Afghanistan” by the end of 2011, it appears that this review will be completed in early 2012, closer to the time that the Council considers renewing the mission’s mandate, which expires on 23 March 2012.)   

Key Recent Developments
The security situation throughout Afghanistan remained volatile in recent weeks.  Several attacks resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties. On 31 October, insurgents launched an attack on a facility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kandahar, claiming the lives of three UN security guards and two security contractors. On 6 November, a suicide bomber, reportedly from the Taliban, killed eight people exiting a mosque in northern Afghanistan’s Baghlan province, including five civilians and three commanders from the anti-Taliban arbakai militias, who appear to have been targeted by the bomber. On 8 November, insurgents detonated a roadside bomb in western Afghanistan in Badghis province, killing 11 people, including six children, and wounding three traveling in a police truck. It appears that the bomb’s intended target was the police; however, only two of the 11 killed were police. (The 6 and 8 November attacks occurred despite a 4 November statement from Taliban leader Mullah Omar marking the Islamic Eid holiday, in which he called on his followers to take care not to harm civilians.) Also on 8 November, NATO and Afghan forces killed approximately 70 insurgents who had attacked military bases in the Barmal district of Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. NATO helicopter strikes targeting Taliban planting roadside bombs in Kandahar province resulted in the deaths of two insurgents and six children on 23 November.

On 26 November, NATO aircraft reportedly providing close air support to ground troops engaged in combat with insurgents bombed two Pakistani military bases in the Mohmand region along the northwest border with Afghanistan. A high-level investigation has been planned by NATO to determine the causes of the strikes, which resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers, and to help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. In response to the cross-border incident, Pakistan has closed two NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, including one through which NATO obtains approximately 40 percent of its supplies in Afghanistan. Pakistan also requested that within 15 days the US Central Intelligence Agency stop drone attacks into Afghanistan from the Shamsi air base in Pakistan.   

On 2 November, Afghanistan and Turkey hosted a high-level conference in Istanbul to discuss strategies for promoting security and cooperation in Afghanistan and the neighbouring region. Among the participants were representatives of 12 states that are near Afghanistan and multilateral organisations including the EU, NATO, and the UN.  A document, referred to as the Istanbul Protocol, was agreed at the conference in which participants, inter-alia

  • expressed support for the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan;
  • reiterated their determination to help Afghanistan to combat terrorism;
  • expressed their commitment to cooperate with Afghanistan and regional and international actors to counter the illegal production, consumption and trade of drugs; and
  • delineated various ways to promote educational, cultural and economic progress in Afghanistan and the region. 

Participants at the Istanbul conference also agreed to hold a follow-up meeting in June 2012 in Kabul at the ministerial level. 

On 15 November, the International Contact Group on Afghanistan met in Astana, Kazakhstan. Thirty-nine countries—as well as regional bodies such as the EU, NATO and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation—attended the meeting and discussed preparations for the Bonn Conference, which is scheduled for 5 December and will focus on international political and economic engagement in Afghanistan, both after 2014, the currently projected date for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and during the transition period preceding it.

Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, convened a loya jirga, a gathering of tribal and community leaders, in Kabul from 16 to 20 November. During the jirga, Karzai discussed negotiations with the US on security arrangements moving forward. He said that a strategic partnership with the US could include some form of US military presence in Afghanistan after 2014, although the nature and extent of this presence is still under negotiation. Karzai also strongly asserted Afghanistan’s sovereignty, saying that night time raids by NATO needed to end and that control of detention centres should be transferred to Afghan authorities.  At the conclusion of the jirga, the approximately 2,000 participants adopted a resolution endorsing Karzai’s efforts to negotiate a military role for the US in Afghanistan after 2014, as well as his demands for an end to night time raids and foreign control of detention centres.  The resolution also supported efforts to engage insurgents in peace talks. In response to the resolution, Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, reiterated Taliban demands that foreign militaries leave Afghanistan and called the participants in the jirga “servants of the invaders of our country”.

On 27 November, Karzai announced the “second tranche” of areas where security will be transferred to Afghan forces from NATO, primarily in the west and north of the country. It is anticipated that the transfer, which is expected to cover areas possessing approximately half of Afghanistan’s population, will occur in early 2012. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

Addressing the Council on 9 November during the open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was concerned that the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan was increasing in a climate characterised by a lack of accountability for serious violations of international law. Pillay said that in the first half of 2011, UNAMA’s Human Rights Unit tracked a 15 percent increase in conflict-related civilian deaths, 80 percent of which was attributed to anti-government forces. Pillay also drew the Council’s attention to a report by the human rights unit documenting the systematic torture of suspected insurgents in many National Security Directorate and police detention facilities.

Key Issues
One key issue is how to generate momentum in support of the Afghan-based reconciliation process, which suffered a setback as a result of the assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani in September. 

A related issue is whether insurgent attacks leading to civilian casualties following Omar’s admonition against harming civilians signals increased fragmentation within the Taliban and what that might mean for the national reconciliation process moving forward.

A further key issue is how well Afghan security forces will perform as International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) countries draw down their troop levels and Afghanistan assumes greater responsibility for its own security. 

An important issue is whether the discussions at the Istanbul Conference and the resulting protocol can provide a springboard for enhanced cooperation and coordination among Afghanistan and regional actors in addressing relevant security, political, economic and other issues. 

Another key issue is what actions the Afghan government will take in response to two recent UNAMA reports produced in conjunction with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: 

A related issue is whether and how the Council will address the human rights violations raised in the report. 

Options for the Council include:

  • taking no action at the current time;
  • adopting a statement that expresses concern about the recent violence and reiterates support for the national reconciliation process;
  • incorporating in the statement language that calls on the Afghanistan government to strengthen human rights standards in the treatment of detainees and emphasises the need to make progress in applying the law on the elimination of violence against women, in light of the findings of the recent UNAMA reports; and
  • adding in a statement language welcoming the Istanbul Protocol and encouraging enhanced regional cooperation on the challenges facing Afghanistan and the broader region.  

Council Dynamics
There is general agreement in the Council on the importance of helping Afghanistan to promote national reconciliation, security and economic growth. Several Council members have noted that it is important during the security transition period for Afghanistan to strengthen its institutional capacity, notably with respect to security, governance and the rule of law. 

In spite of agreement on many issues, different Council members tend to emphasise different challenges facing Afghanistan and the broader region. For example, Russia has underscored the threat to international peace and security posed by drug production and trafficking from Afghanistan, while India has expressed the perspective that the drawdown of foreign troops should not be linked to a strict timetable but rather should be determined by the situation on the ground. 

Pakistan’s entrance into the Council in 2012 will add the perspective of another influential regional actor—in addition to China, Russia and India—to the Council’s deliberations on Afghanistan. 

Germany is the lead country on Afghanistan.

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UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2011 (12 October 2011) renewed ISAF’s mandate for one year. 
  • S/RES/1974 (22 March 2011) renewed UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2012.
  • S/RES/1401 (28 March 2002) created UNAMA.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report


  • A/RES/66/13  (21 November 2011) was the most recent General Assembly resolution on Afghanistan. 
  • S/PV.6625 (29 September 2011) is the record of the September debate on Afghanistan.

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 October 2011): 415 international civilians, 1,672 local civilians, 12 military observers, 3 police, 76 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 18 October 2011): about 130,638 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 2012

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