October 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2012
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1988 Sanctions Committee Report

On 4 September the chair of the 1988 Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Peter Wittig (Germany), circulated the first report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team (S/2012/683), as well as the accompanying Committee position paper (S/2012/684) on the recommendations proposed by the Monitoring Team.

While there is no provision for a position paper in any Council resolution, it has become a practice to issue one since the release of the 2 September 2005 third report (S/2005/572) by the Monitoring Team assisting the 1267 Al-Qaida and Taliban Committee. (The 1267 Committee was split into the 1267/1989 and 1988 Committees on 17 June 2011 in recognition of a need to treat the two entities differently. Recognising Taliban objections to being regarded as terrorists, the 1988 Committee was also not categorised as a counter-terrorism committee in an attempt to encourage dialogue.) Although the latest report of the Monitoring Team was transmitted on 30 March 2012, it appears that some members of the Committee objected to certain substantive points in the position paper (which is drafted by the Secretariat).  This led to a delay in the publication of both the report and the paper.

Overall the report suggests that the 1988 sanctions regime needs to evolve and adapt but not change radically as it tries to walk the fine line of encouraging reconciliation against a background of violence. The Monitoring Team makes clear that although it believes that the Committee could adjust its guidelines it is too soon for drastic changes. The report notes that, although difficult to implement, sanctions do matter to the Taliban and that better implementation could lead to less insurgency.  However, in its conclusions, the Monitoring Team suggests that although the Council and the Committee could take steps to improve implementation of the sanctions, it is the use of sanctions as a political tool which is possibly more important.

This first report focuses on the challenges to the implementation of the three sanctions measures: assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo. Many of the recommendations relate to possible exemptions which would make it easier for listed individuals to take part in the Afghan peace process. As the report states, the Council has prioritised “persuading the Taliban to change their behaviour and join a political process, rather than do what it can to exclude them.”

Recommendations related to the listing and delisting process focus on allowing for a longer period of time for the consideration of listing and delisting submissions, largely to allow for consultations with the Afghan government. The greater flexibility regarding exemptions appears to be a way of trying to balance the need for peace and stability in Afghanistan with the need to limit the Taliban insurgency. In fact the report frankly states that the decisions on exemptions are likely to have as “big an impact on the promotion of a political process in Afghanistan as will the full implementation of measures”.

The need to update the list is highlighted. The report suggests that of the 50 individuals the Monitoring Team has identified as the core membership of the Taliban there are nine that are not listed by the Committee and should be. A clear gap is the absence of Taliban “shadow” provincial governors in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. Responding to this issue, the accompanying position paper notes that some Committee members questioned the categorisation of the Taliban leadership in the Annex to the report as there are differing views on the links between Taliban groups.

Another key section was on exemptions related to the assets freeze. Although the Committee can authorise exemptions through procedures set out in resolutions 1452 and 1753 if the assets freeze hinders the reconciliation programme, no requests have been made so far. The report suggests that the Afghan government be allowed to grant an exemption for basic expenses such as a stipend for reconciled Taliban, to facilitate their reintegration without the 48 hour waiting period as required by resolution 1452. As with many other recommendations this appears to be geared towards facilitating the use of exemptions.

In its position paper, the Committee indicates that it is currently considering improvements in granting exemptions, particularly for basic expenses for reconciled individuals and asks the Monitoring Team to provide additional information on the concept and amount of basic expenses.

The report also provides information on efforts to engage the Taliban in the reconciliation process and the obstacles to talks. While it seems the Monitoring Team did not have enough evidence to report on violations to the travel ban, the report reflects that there are some indications that listed Taliban could have been involved in talks outside of Afghanistan including assembling “in the Gulf area to discuss entering negotiations with the United States.”

Perhaps as a result, the section on the travel ban contains a number of recommendations which would allow exemptions to be more easily granted within the context of promoting reconciliation. (No exemptions have been applied for although resolution 1988 allows for travel related to the reconciliation process and the Committee has relevant guidelines.) The recommendations suggest procedures that would allow the Afghan government to make decisions on entry or transit for those on the list as long as it reports within a certain timeframe. It also makes a number of recommendations on how the Committee could provide for variations to a travel exemption in situations which could promote reconciliation.

In response to these recommendations, the Committee emphasised that exemptions are decided on a case-by-case basis and underlined the political relevance of the travel ban exemptions to the peace process. It indicated that it would take the wide range of options into consideration.

Finally, a somewhat controversial recommendation in the report is for Pakistan to impose a country-wide ban on the import and manufacture of nitrate-based fertiliser as this would help implement the arms embargo on the export of fertiliser and other material for improvised explosive devices from Pakistan to Afghanistan. The Committee in its position paper noted that some members questioned the feasibility and practicality of this proposal as this type of fertiliser is used in all neighbouring states.