September 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2012
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action

The Council is scheduled to hold its quarterly debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in September.  Jan Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, is expected to brief. At press time, no outcome to the meeting was anticipated.

The mandate of UNAMA expires on 23 March 2013. 

Key Recent Developments

A spate of violent incidents occurred throughout Afghanistan in July and August.  On 9 July, a roadside bomb killed five Afghan police officers in Bamyan province in the centre of the country.  On the same day, insurgents attacked several targets in Kandahar city in the south, including a bank and the police headquarters; media reported that three police officers and 14 insurgents were killed in the fighting, while numerous others were also wounded.  Also on 9 July, a motorcycle bomb was detonated near the base of a militia force supported by NATO in Helmand province, killing five people and wounding another 13. 

Afghan security forces and NATO on 10 July launched a series of operations throughout the country that led to the death of 12 insurgents and the detention of 20 suspected insurgents. 

A suicide bomber killed 23 people and wounded 60 others at the 14 July wedding of the daughter of Ahmad Khan Samangani, an Afghan parliamentarian from the Uzbek ethnic group who had fought against the Taliban in the 1990s, in northern Samangan province.  Samangani was one of several prominent figures killed in the attack, which also led to the deaths of Saeed Ahmad Sameh, a prominent police official, and Muhammed Khan, the provincial head of the intelligence services. 

The Taliban carried out coordinated attacks on 14 and 15 August. In Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province in the southwest corner of the country, suicide bombers killed 30 people and wounded 60.  (During the attacks, three additional suicide bombers were killed and four others captured before they could set off their explosives.)  In northern Kunduz province, 10 civilians died and 30 were injured when an explosive device was remotely detonated. In a press statement issued on 17 August (SC/10745), the Council condemned the attacks “in the strongest terms”.

A series of so-called “green on blue” attacks have occurred in recent weeks and months in which Afghan security forces have shot their NATO trainers.  More than 40 of these attacks have occurred thus far in 2012.  After six NATO troops were killed in such “green on blue” violence in two separate incidents on 10 August in Helmand province, NATO instituted measures to enhance the protection of its trainers.  NATO troops are now expected to have a loaded magazine in their guns at all times.  Additionally, one or more NATO soldiers—whose identities will not be disclosed—are expected to watch closely the actions of Afghan trainees during joint activities.  Nonetheless, in spite of these efforts, an Afghan soldier killed two US troops on 27 August in Helmand Province after an argument occurred in the midst of a joint US-Afghan patrol.     

On 21 August, insurgents fired two rockets into the Bagram US airbase.  Shrapnel from the rocket fire hit and damaged a cargo plane that had been carrying US General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was visiting the base at the time.  A helicopter was also hit.  It is unclear whether General Dempsey was the target of the attack. 

Two other violent incidents occurred in Helmand on 26 August.   Insurgents shot and killed 10 Afghan troops in Washir District at a checkpoint.  A spokesperson for the provincial governor said that the attack had been planned by insurgents who had infiltrated Afghan security forces.  In a separate incident, 17 civilians were killed while holding a party in a Taliban stronghold.  Media reports indicate that the victims, who either had their throats slit or were decapitated, may have been targeted because they worked for the local government. 

The Council held its last debate on Afghanistan on 27 June. Briefing the Council, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous urged members to support the “Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees,” the outcome of the May International Conference on the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees   (with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan held this meeting in Geneva). The resulting strategy is designed to support the voluntary return and reintegration of Afghan refugees in a sustainable manner and, according to the joint communiqué issued at the conference, rests on three pillars: “continued support for voluntary repatriation, investment in sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan and assistance to host countries.” Ladsous also expressed concern about the rise in targeting of civilians, noting that insurgents were “responsible for up to 80 percent of civilian casualties.” He further cautioned that, given budgetary constraints, UNAMA’s 2013 budget “will reflect the overall need for cuts that have been requested by member states.”

Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, also addressed the Council during the debate. Fedotov noted that approximately 90 percent of the world’s opiates are produced in Afghanistan. He added that he had told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that addressing this problem needed to be a “national priority” and that Karzai concurred. 

On 3 July, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised for the cross-border aerial bombardment in November 2011 in which US forces pursuing insurgents from Afghanistan into Pakistan accidentally killed 24 Pakistani troops. Following that incident, Pakistan closed two key NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, which it reopened only in the aftermath of Clinton’s statement.  On 8 July, several thousand protestors in Islamabad and other Pakistani cities rallied against the reopening of the supply lines. 

An international conference on Afghanistan was held in Tokyo on 8 July. Donors pledged more than $16 billion in civilian assistance to Afghanistan through 2015, as well as committed to provide support through 2017 at or close to levels of the past decade.  Afghanistan and its international partners agreed to a “mutual accountability framework” through which Afghanistan affirmed its commitment to the rule of law, human rights, effective financial management and good governance while the international community promised to enhance the effectiveness of its aid delivery. (Improved aid effectiveness includes such measures as increasing the percentage of aid aligned with Afghan government-established priorities, as well as of contributions directly to the national budget.)  The Council welcomed the conference in a press statement issued on 24 July (SC/10722). 

On 22 July, the World Bank made a grant of $125 million to the government of Afghanistan to help improve roads and build bridges in rural areas of the country.  The grant will support the Afghanistan Rural Access Project, which strives to make basic services more readily available to the population by increasing the number of Afghans residing within two kilometres of all-weather roads.

 Human Rights-Related Developments

UNAMA released its mid-year report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict on 8 August. Covering the first six months of 2012, the report documented 1,145 civilians killed and 1,954 injured in conflict-related violence.  Of the 3,099 civilians killed or wounded, 925 were women or children. The report also recorded 34 attacks against schools and closures of schools, particularly those for girls. Commenting on the findings, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed the importance of holding human rights violators accountable in efforts to bring down the number of civilian casualties. Pillay observed that impunity for human rights abuses only emboldened the perpetrators.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is how to address the extremely challenging security situation in Afghanistan, especially the targeting of civilians by insurgents.  A related issue is how to curtail the recent attacks on international troops by Afghan security forces whom they are training. Another related issue is the need to reinvigorate reconciliation efforts between the government and the Taliban. 

An additional key issue is how best to encourage international actors to stay engaged with rebuilding Afghanistan and to ensure that both Afghanistan and its international partners fulfil commitments made through the Tokyo conference’s mutual accountability framework.   

An ongoing important issue is the need to address the national and regional implications to peace and security of the production and distribution of opiates within and outside Afghanistan.  

A further key issue is how the Council can most effectively support the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, building on the Geneva conference held in early May.

Options

Options for the Council include:

  • listening to the briefing without taking action at the current time;
  • inviting a representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees to brief the Council on the implementation of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees;
  • inviting the High Commissioner for Human Rights to brief on protection of civilians issues; and
  • requesting from the Secretary-General a strategic plan for UN support for reconciliation efforts.
Council Dynamics

There is widespread support within the Council for promoting good governance, human rights, reconciliation and development in Afghanistan, issues key to UNAMA’s mandate.  Council members also broadly recognise that the meaningful long-term support of the international community will be necessary to help Afghanistan overcome its economic, political and security challenges in the years to come.  In light of the needs of Afghanistan, Pakistan has expressed concern with potential budget cuts to UNAMA and the possible impact this could have on the mission’s effectiveness.  

The difficult security environment, the drug trade and Afghan refugees are among key concerns of Council members. Several Council members, concerned with violence resulting from insurgent attacks, have emphasised the importance of strengthening the Afghan security forces, especially as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) draws down its military commitment. Russia has argued that inappropriate behaviour by foreign troops and accidental civilian deaths caused by airstrikes have fuelled instability in Afghanistan.  It also notes that combatting the production and distribution of drugs should be a key priority of the government. Pakistan, which hosts approximately 1.7 million Afghan refugees, highlights the importance of the “Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees.” 

Germany is the lead country in the Council on Afghanistan.  

Selected UN Documents
Security Council Resolutions  
22 March 2012 S/RES/2041 This resolution renewed UNAMA’s mandate until 23 March 2013.
12 October 2011 S/RES/2011 This resolution renewed ISAF’s mandate for one year.
28 March 2002 S/RES/1401 This resolution created UNAMA.
Security Council Press Statements  
17 August 2012 SC/10745 This press statement on Afghanistan condemned attacks on civilians.
23 July 2012 SC/10722 The Council welcomed the 8 July the “Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan” and the conclusions of the conference.
Secretary-General’s Reports  
20 June 2012 S/2012/462 This was a Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Security Council Meeting Records  
27 June 2012 S/PV.6793 This was a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan.