Expected Council Action
In June, the Council expects to hold its quarterly debate on Afghanistan. Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), is likely to brief the Council. No outcome is anticipated.
UNAMA’s mandate expires on 19 March 2014.
Key Recent Developments
On 19 March, the Council adopted resolution 2096, which maintained UNAMA’s long-standing mandate in areas such as reconciliation, electoral assistance, human rights, the rule of law and good governance. However, the resolution added language highlighting the importance of adequate resourcing for UNAMA, thus signalling concerns about significant cuts to the mission’s budget over the past year. Additionally, the resolution placed emphasis on UNAMA’s role in promoting coordination and coherence among UN funds, programmes and agencies working in Afghanistan.
The security situation in Afghanistan continues to be unstable. Addressing a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels on 24 April, Kubǐs said that there had been a 30 percent increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, noting that 475 civilians had been killed and 872 had been wounded in the first three months of this year.
A number of deadly attacks have also been reported in recent months. In Farah province in western Afghanistan, at least 53 people were killed and more than 100 were injured during a 3 April Taliban assault on a government facility. Kubǐs called the attack a war crime during the NATO ministerial briefing on 24 April.
On 16 May, a car filled with explosives smashed into two US military vehicles in Kabul, killing six US soldiers and contractors and 10 Afghan civilians and wounding more than 36 Afghans. The insurgent group Hezb-i-Islami took responsibility for the attack, claiming that other attacks on the US will follow because of current negotiations between the US and Afghan governments on an extended US military presence in the country.
Several other fatal incidents involving International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers have recently occurred in southern Afghanistan. Three British troops died when their vehicle set off a roadside bomb on 30 April in Helmand province. On 4 May, a roadside bomb killed five US troops in Kandahar’s Maiwand district. Three Georgian soldiers died on 13 May in Helmand Province when insurgents discharged explosives in a vehicle that they had driven into the Georgian base. On the following day, four US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb, in Kandahar’s Zhari district.
The Taliban attacked an International Organisation for Migration (IOM) compound in Kabul on 24 May, killing an Afghan police officer and injuring 10 other people, including three IOM personnel. On 26 May, the Council issued a press statement condemning the attack.
On 5 May, the Afghan Opium Survey 2012, a joint report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Afghan Ministry of Counter-Narcotics, was issued. The report noted that opium production in Afghanistan increased by 18 percent in 2012 compared to 2011. Afghanistan accounted for approximately 64 percent of the world’s opium production last year, according to the report.
The New York Times reported on 28 April that the US Central Intelligence Agency had been making cash payments to President Hamid Karzai’s office for at least the past 10 years. Karzai confirmed receiving such payments on 29 April. According to the Times, “The money is used to cover a slew of off-the-books expenses, like paying off lawmakers or underwriting delicate diplomatic trips or informal negotiations. Much of it also goes to keeping old warlords in line.”
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan suffered a setback in early May, when security forces from the two countries clashed in two separate border incidents on 1 and 6 May.
On 26 April, the third Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process, which is designed to promote security and cooperation in Afghanistan and the neighbouring region, was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It included the participation of high-level delegations from 30 countries and 12 regional and international organisations. (The first two conferences were held in Istanbul in November 2011 and Kabul in June 2012.) The conference declaration highlighted the importance of cooperative efforts among states in combating security challenges in Afghanistan, the surrounding region, and beyond.
Preparations for the presidential and provincial council elections, currently scheduled for 5 April 2014, continued. Voter registration in all provinces began on 25 May; it is anticipated that this process will last for two months. At press time, a bill guiding the work of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) had yet to be adopted, as Karzai and the Afghan parliament have yet to come to terms on the content of the legislation. (The legislation requires presidential approval before it is enacted into law. It has been noted that Karzai, who has vetoed a draft of the bill, would like to be able to appoint all of the members of the IEC and to entrust Attorney General Mohammad Ishaq Aloko with the responsibilities of the ECC.)
Another piece of legislation that has yet to be adopted is the wider election law. On 22 May, the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan parliament, approved the bill, which is currently being considered by Karzai as it also requires his approval before being enacted into law.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 20 March the then-Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, introduced a periodic report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/22/37). The report was prepared in cooperation with UNAMA. She said that the report highlighted persistent human rights challenges exacerbated by the ongoing armed conflict, with civilians continuing to bear the brunt. She also said that a fact-finding team put in place by President Karzai following the publication of UNAMA’s report “Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghan Custody” last January found that 48 percent of the detainees interviewed alleged that they had been tortured. The team proposed recommendations to relevant institutions to address this issue. Kang also addressed access to justice, executions and violence against women.
A key issue for the Council is the deteriorating security situation. A related and ongoing issue is how well Afghan security forces will perform as they continue to take on enhanced security responsibilities from ISAF.
Also an important issue is helping to ensure that preparations for the 2014 elections are managed effectively, as UNAMA is mandated to provide electoral support upon the request of the government. (This is especially an area of concern given the controversies surrounding the conduct of the last presidential election in 2009, which Peter Galbraith, then Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan, claimed was tarnished by “massive electoral fraud”.)
Another key issue is the rise in opium production in Afghanistan and what efforts can be taken to curtail the impact of this challenge in Afghanistan and the broader region.
One option is for the Council to listen to the debate but take no action at the current time.
The Council might also consider adopting a statement that:
- deplores the spike in violence against civilians in recent months;
- encourages the adoption of electoral legislation that is fair and represents legitimate compromise among Afghan stakeholders; and
- welcomes the declaration of the recent Istanbul process conference, recognising the importance of regional actors in Afghanistan’s future success.
Another option would be for the Council to consider requesting a report from the Secretary-General by the end of 2013 specifically on electoral preparations.
There is widespread support in the Council for UNAMA’s core mandate. Several members are concerned about the security situation, especially given the heightened number of civilian casualties in recent months. Several Council members have likewise noted the devastating impact of the conflict in Afghanistan on women and children. For example, Guatemala has noted the significant rise in attacks on women and girls in 2012, while Luxembourg has pointed to attacks on schools and the use of child suicide bombers by extremists as violations of the rights of children.
There is also a widespread emphasis among Council members on the importance of electoral planning processes that are fair and inclusive, while several members—notably France, Pakistan and Russia—underscore the need to bolster efforts to combat drug production and trafficking.
Australia is the penholder on Afghanistan.
UN Documents on Afghanistan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|19 March 2013 S/RES/2096||This resolution extended the mandate of UNAMA until 19 March 2014|
|9 October 2012 S/RES/2069||This resolution renewed the mandate of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan until 13 October 2013.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|26 May 2013 SC/11016||This press statement condemned the attack on the IOM compound in Kabul.|
|5 March 2013 S/2013/133||This was a report on UNAMA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 March 2013 S/PV.6935||This was a debate on the situation in Afghanistan.|
|19 March 2013 S/PV.6935 (Resumption 1)||This was the resumption of a debate on Afghanistan.|