October 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2013
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ASIA

Afghanistan

Expected Council Action

In October, the Council is likely to extend 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) on 19 September, a wider discussion is not anticipated at this point.

UNAMA’s mandate expires on 19 March 2013. 

Key Recent Developments

The Council debated the situation in Afghanistan on 19 September. While praising the courage and growing capability of Afghan security forces, Special Representative and head of UNAMA Ján Kubǐs stated that they would need international support for at least five additional years to achieve requisite capacity. 

Regarding the preparations for the 5 April 2014 elections, Kubǐs noted that the passage in July of two critical pieces of electoral legislation—the “structure law”, which determines the structure and activities of the Independent Electoral Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission, as well as the wider electoral law, which governs the conduct of the elections—represents a sign of progress. However, he underscored the importance of ensuring that appropriate security measures are in place for the election. 

The security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile with attacks throughout the country claiming the lives of large numbers of civilians, Afghan security forces and ISAF soldiers. 

On 30 August, 18 people were killed in two separate attacks by insurgents in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. On 10 September, in Ghazni province, a roadside bomb exploded killing seven civilians and injuring 17 others. 

On 28 August, Taliban fighters attacked an ISAF base in Ghazni province. At least seven people, including an ISAF soldier and six Afghans, were killed in the assault, along with seven attackers, and 34 others were injured. In an apparent “green on blue” attack, three ISAF troops were shot dead in Paktia province on 21 September, before the assailant was killed by Afghan security forces. 

Several Taliban fighters launched an assault on the US consulate in Herat on 13 September. Seven people, including five insurgents and two Afghan police, were killed and 20 were injured in the assault. The Council issued a press statement condemning the attack on 13 September (SC/11122). 

Members of the fledgling Afghan police have been particularly targeted in violent attacks in recent weeks. On 15 September, Lieutenant Negara, the highest ranking female police officer in Helmand province, was shot and later died of her wounds. Insurgents had assassinated her predecessor, Islam Bibi, in July. Between 18 and 22 September, 29 Afghan police officers were killed in two separate Taliban attacks in Badakhshan and Kandahar provinces. 

A drone strike on a truck in Kunar province on 7 September resulted in the deaths of as many as 16 people. ISAF confirmed the attack, claiming that 10 insurgents had been killed, but Afghanistan alleged that many civilians, including women and children, were also travelling in the vehicle and died in the strike, which was condemned by President Hamid Karzai. 

Karzai travelled to Islamabad for a two-day summit on 26-27 August with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. The leaders pledged to continue to promote cooperation between the two countries and to cooperate on the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. In an effort to assist the intra-Afghanistan reconciliation process, on 7 September Pakistan released seven Taliban fighters from prison. Then, on 21 September, it released Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a founding member of the Afghan Taliban who had served as a key aide to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Given Baradar’s stature, some are hopeful that he may be able to exert influence on the Taliban to participate in peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Previously, on 6 September, Afghanistan swapped 11 Taliban prisoners for Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, a female parliamentarian who was abducted by the Taliban in August in Ghazni province. 

Australia, the penholder on Afghanistan, circulated the draft resolution reauthorising ISAF to the wider Council in mid-September. An initial read-through of the draft was held on 17 September. Given the intense activity related to the opening of the General Assembly during the week of 23 September, Council members planned to reconvene in early October to negotiate the text. 

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 17 September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay held a press conference in Kabul on her two-day visit to the country and meetings with the government and civil society. Her visit focused mainly on the importance of ensuring that the human rights gains of the past 12 years are not sacrificed to political expediency during the period leading up to the presidential elections next April. She noted the slow implementation of the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women. She also expressed concerns about the future of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and in particular, the recent flawed process which led to the appointment of its five newest members. 

Key Issues

Several inter-connected security issues warrant Council attention. These include how to address the heightened violence against civilians, how well Afghan security forces will perform as they assume primary responsibility for security and what kind of post-2014 security arrangement may be struck between Afghanistan and the US. (Afghanistan and the US have been negotiating a long-term security deal for the past year, but have yet to reach an agreement.) 

A related issue is ensuring that the 5 April 2014 presidential and provincial elections are not marred by violence and intimidation or fraud.

An additional key issue is whether and how the reconciliation process between the government and the Taliban can gain traction and what role the Council can play in this process. 

Options

The most likely option for the Council is to extend the authorisation of ISAF through the end of the 2014 calendar year, given that the military drawdown is expected to be completed by that point.

The Council could also contemplate activating the Military Staff Committee as a forum to consult on strategies for enhancing security in Afghanistan and the broader region, especially considering that several of the permanent members have a strong national interest in a positive future for Afghanistan. 

Council Dynamics

While some Council members believe that progress is being made in the security transition from ISAF to Afghan forces, there is considerable alarm among several Council members about the deterioration of security in different parts of Afghanistan and the impact of the violence on civilians, especially women and children. There is also widespread recognition that the holding of free and fair elections in 2014 will be critical to the legitimacy of the incoming government and to the country’s future success. 

Russia is particularly concerned about the long-term security situation in Afghanistan. It has argued that there needs to be greater clarity regarding the potential presence of international forces in Afghanistan after 2014, including the size of such a residual force and the objectives of these forces. 

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 Statement
13 September 2013 SC/11122 This press statement condemned the attack on 13 September 2013.
Secretary-General’s Report
6 September 2013 S/2013/535 This was a report by the Secretary-General on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Security Council Letter
17 September 2013 S/2013/558 This letter contained the International Security Assistance Force’s report on its operations from 1 May 2013 to 31 July 2013.
Security Council Meeting Record
19 September 2013 S/PV.7035 The Council discussed Afghanistan in a debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.