October 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2012
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action

In early October the Council will consider extending for an additional year the authorisation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan ahead of its expiry on 13 October.

Given that the Council discussed Afghanistan in a debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in late September, a wider discussion is not anticipated at this point. 

UNAMA’s mandate expires on 23 March 2013.

Key Recent Developments

On 20 September, the Council held its quarterly debate on the situation in Afghanistan.  Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, briefed the Council.  While he said that the security transition from international to Afghan forces was making progress, Kubiš noted that the security environment in the country was fragile. He underscored the need for the government of Afghanistan to strengthen local governance and the rule of law.  Kubiš also emphasised the need for Afghanistan and its international partners to adhere to mutual obligations made at recent high-level conferences, alluding to the NATO summit in Chicago (May), the Kabul conference on regional cooperation (June) and the Tokyo conference (July).  He also said that credible presidential elections, scheduled for 2014, were “essential to national unity and legitimacy”. 

During the Council’s debate on children and armed conflict on 19 September, Ambassador Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) said that any course of action that sought to ameliorate the human rights and well-being of Afghan children must also focus on diminishing the influence of terrorism and extremism in the nation. He noted that 1,396 Afghan children were killed or maimed in armed conflict last year and 74 percent of all child casualties in Afghanistan were caused by armed groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaida. The government, he said, was committed to prevent underage recruitment and formally announced that military recruitment of people under 18 or over 35 would be treated as an offence.

The security situation in Afghanistan continued to be volatile in September.  On 1 September, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives near a US military base in Sayed Abad, approximately 45 miles southwest of Kabul, killing more than a dozen Afghans, including eight civilians and four police.  The attack also injured 58 people.

On 4 September, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in the midst of a funeral in the Durbaba district of Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, an area largely inhabited by the Shinwari tribe, whose members have long been at odds with the Taliban.  The attacker may have been targeting district governor Hamisha Gul, who was injured in the bombing, which led to the deaths of more than 25 people and wounded dozens. 

A Taliban suicide bomber, allegedly targeting a US Central Intelligence Agency facility, detonated a bomb outside NATO headquarters in Kabul on 8 September, killing eight Afghan civilians, including six children.   

In Kunduz, the capital city of the province in northern Afghanistan bearing the same name, a suicide bomber on 10 September reportedly killed 16 people, including 10 police and six civilians.     

On 14 September, 15 Taliban insurgents dressed in US military uniforms blasted an opening in the outer wall of Camp Bastion, a well-defended NATO base in Helmand Province. Upon entering the base, they shot at and set fire to military equipment.  During the assault, eight AV-8B Harrier jets were destroyed or damaged and two US marines were killed. NATO forces killed 14 insurgents and took one into custody.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai released a statement on 12 September condemning an anti-Islamic film that had been widely seen on the Internet.  Violent protests erupted in several countries in the Muslim world in response to the video, including in Afghanistan, where hundreds of people demonstrated in Kabul. Hezb-i-Islami, an insurgent group, claimed responsibility for an attack on 18 September in Kabul in which a suicide bomber drove a vehicle filled with explosives into a van transporting foreigners.  (It appears that the attack was in retaliation to the film.)   In addition to the suicide bomber, ten foreigners, mostly South Africans, and four Afghans reportedly died in the bombing.

On 16 September, apparently in response to the spate of so-called “green on blue” attacks in which Afghan security forces turn their weapons on their NATO counterparts, ISAF announced a reduction in joint operations between ISAF personnel and Afghan security forces.  As a result of the plan, joint operations now require the authorisation of an ISAF general.  On 2 September, US officials also announced that training of Afghan special operations forces and local police, who constitute approximately 7 percent of all Afghan security forces, would be temporarily halted until enhanced screening is conducted.

The US transferred control of the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities on 10 September.  The US and Afghanistan signed an agreement on 9 March authorising the transfer of Afghan detainees from US to Afghan custody.  Since then, the US has shifted more than 3,000 prisoners in Bagram to Afghan custody.  It is also planning to hand over several hundred prisoners who have been captured and held there since 9 March.  However, the US has retained custody of some 30 Afghan detainees for unspecified reasons.  (It seems that some Afghan authorities disapprove of the US practice of “no trial detention”.  Media reports suggest that US officials may be concerned that Afghanistan may not adhere to this practice, thus releasing potentially dangerous suspects who would be hard to prosecute.) 

A NATO bombing raid on 16 September, apparently targeting Taliban insurgents, led to the deaths of eight women and girls in Laghman Province in the eastern part of Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials.  It appears that the women and girls had been collecting firewood when they were killed.     

On 7 September, the US government officially added to its terrorism list the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based terrorist organisation responsible for several high profile attacks on NATO and civilian targets in Afghanistan.   

In mid-September, Karzai announced the dismissal of ten provincial governors.  Hamid Elmi, a presidential spokesman, said that these officials were being replaced because “some provinces need better governance and … some governors were not able to carry out their duties … and were not efficient.” The governors were replaced in Badghis, Baghlan, Faryab, Helmand, Kabul, Laghman, Logar, Nimroz, Takhar, and Wardak provinces.

On 15 September, the Afghan legislature approved Karzai’s nominations for Interior Minister (Gen. Ghulam Mujtaba Patang), Defence Minister (Bismillah Khan Mohammadi) and the head of the National Security Directorate (Asadullah Khalid), thus filling critical security positions.  It has been noted that the appointments reflect the legislature’s concerns about ethnic diversity, as Khalid and Patang are Pashtuns and Mohammadi is Tajik.  (Pashtuns and Tajiks represent Afghanistan’s largest ethnic groups.)

Key Issues

A key issue is the fragile security environment and the destructiveness of the insurgency, especially at a time when ISAF is drawing down its forces. 

A related issue is the spate of “green on blue” attacks in recent months, which has had a negative impact on ISAF’s ability to train and work with Afghan security forces.  (So far in 2012, 51 ISAF troops have died in such incidents.)

Another related issue is how to decrease the deadliness and frequency of attacks which have taken a devastating toll on civilian populations. 

An additional related issue is the need to reinvigorate reconciliation between the government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups (see the enclosed brief on the 1988 Sanctions Committee).

Moving forward, an important issue is what role UNAMA will play in core mandate areas related to promoting good governance, human rights, and reconciliation— especially given the extremely challenging political and security environment and the projected cuts to UNAMA’s funding for 2013.

Another issue is how to ensure that both Afghanistan and its international partners fulfil commitments made through the “mutual accountability framework” agreed at the 8 July Tokyo conference on Afghanistan.  (During the conference, donors pledged more than $16 billion in civilian assistance to Afghanistan through 2015 and committed to provide support through 2017 at or close to levels of the past decade.  Through the framework, Afghanistan affirmed its commitment to the rule of law, human rights, effective financial management and good governance, while its international partners promised to enhance the effectiveness of their aid delivery.)

Options

One option for the Council is to renew the ISAF authorisation with little change from last year except for an update addressing key recent events.

The Council may also consider adopting a resolution in which it:  

  • reiterates strong concern about the security environment and the toll of the conflict on civilians;
  • condemns the recent attacks on ISAF troops by Afghan security forces; and
  • emphasises the critical need for Afghanistan and its international partners to abide by commitments made at recent high-level conferences, most notably the “mutual accountability framework” agreed in Tokyo.

The Council could also contemplate:

  • using the opportunity to hold a broader discussion about the recent deterioration in the security situation; and
  • activating the Military Staff Committee as a forum to consult on strategies for enhancing security in Afghanistan and the broader region. 
Council Dynamics   

At press time, it appeared that negotiations on ISAF reauthorisation would begin in early October.   While some Council members believe that progress is being made in the security transition from ISAF to Afghan forces, there is growing alarm among several Council members about the deterioration of security in different parts of Afghanistan and the number of civilian casualties caused by the violence.  

Regarding the 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan, a number of Council members have begun to emphasise the importance of a credible electoral process to the legitimacy of the Afghan government, a theme underscored in statements by, for example, Colombia, Guatemala and Togo during the September UNAMA debate.  

At press time, the Council was contemplating a visiting mission to Afghanistan in October. Germany, which is the lead country in the Council on Afghanistan, appears to strongly favour such a trip, believing that it would provide Council members with a solid sense of the transition process to Afghan-led security and demonstrate the Council’s ongoing commitment to Afghanistan.  It seems, however, that some members are concerned about making the trip, given the difficult security environment. 

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.
Secretary-General’s Reports  
13 September 2012 S/2012/703 This was the UNAMA report covering developments since 20 June 2012.
Security Council Meeting Records  
20 September 2012 S/PV.6840 This was the UNAMA debate in September.