Expected Council Action
In December, the Council will hold its quarterly debate on the situation in Afghanistan. Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), is expected to brief. At press time, no outcome was anticipated.
UNAMA’s mandate expires on 19 March 2014.
Key Recent Developments
On 12 October, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that they had resolved many key issues related to a long-term security pact that would allow US forces to remain in Afghanistan post-2014. However, the talks failed to resolve two important matters. One was the question of whether US soldiers suspected of illegal activity would be tried under Afghan or US law. The US has said that if its troops do not have immunity under Afghan law, it would not agree to a deal. A second matter of contention was whether US forces would be allowed to carry out raids on the houses of Afghans.
Afghanistan announced on 19 November that it had conceded that US troops in Afghanistan could operate under US legal authority and that it would allow US soldiers to go into Afghan homes but only under “extraordinary circumstances”.
Afghanistan has said that the security deal would need the approval of a loya jirga, a convening of tribal leaders, which was held between 21-24 November, as well as the parliament. The 2,500 person loya jirga approved the deal on 24 November. However, in a speech at the meeting Karzai indicated that he would delay the signing of the agreement, reportedly seeking further promises from the US that it will not conduct raids on Afghan homes and that it will not interfere in the Afghan presidential elections scheduled for April 2014. This has elicited criticism from the US, which argues that the deal must be signed expeditiously to ensure appropriate planning for its post-2014 security role in Afghanistan.
Insurgents continued to be responsible for a series of fatal incidents in late October and November. On 27 October, at least 18 people were killed when the van they were travelling in hit a roadside bomb in Ghazni province. Eight civilians died on 8 November when a roadside bomb was set off by the vehicle in which they were travelling in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. On 16 November, a car bomb blew up outside the Kabul Educational University, leading to 12 deaths. On November 17, villagers in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan found the beheaded bodies of six Afghan government contractors responsible for building police facilities. On 18 November, two separate roadside bombs exploded in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan and in Zabul province respectively, killing seven children in Paktika and two children in Zabul.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics released the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey in Kabul on 13 November. According to the survey, the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a “sobering record high in 2013…representing a 36 percent increase over 2012”. The survey further noted a 49 percent increase in opium production in Afghanistan compared to 2012. It speculated that the increase in cultivation this year might have been sparked by the high price of opium in 2012 and concern among farmers about the country’s future, with elections planned in 2014 and foreign troops scheduled to withdraw by the end of 2014.
The Council last debated the situation in Afghanistan on 19 September. While praising the courage and growing capability of Afghan security forces, 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 presidential and provincial 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 (IEC) and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC), and 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 IEC disqualified 16 of 26 candidates for the 2014 presidential election on 22 October, apparently because they were deemed not to have met the eligibility criteria. In several cases, it seems that the disqualifications occurred because candidates held dual citizenship or did not receive the requisite 100,000 voter cards needed to qualify as a candidate.
After an appeals period for those deemed ineligible by the IEC, the IECC declared on 20 November that the field would include a final list of 11 presidential candidates and 2,713 candidates for the provincial councils. (Karzai is not a candidate, as the constitution only allows for two terms in office).
The Council adopted a resolution 2120 on 10 October reauthorising the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan until 31 December 2014, stating that any new NATO mission after that date “should have a sound legal basis.”
Human Rights-Related Developments
According to UNAMA, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) casualties have increased by 13 percent this year compared to the same period in 2012, and their use accounted for more than a third of all civilian casualties in the conflict between 1 January and 27 October. UNAMA emphasised that the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of IEDs may amount to war crimes.
Several interconnected security issues warrant the Council’s close attention. These include how to address violence against civilians, how well Afghan security forces will perform as ISAF forces continue their drawdown; and whether Afghanistan and the US are able to finalise a mutually agreeable post-2014 security deal.
In this context, a key issue is ensuring that preparations for the 5 April 2014 presidential and provincial elections are conducted fairly and competently and that the elections are not marred by violence, intimidation or fraud.
Another important issue is how to address the rise in opium production and how to address the detrimental effects that this has on security and human welfare in Afghanistan and internationally.
The Council may choose to listen to the debate but take no action at the current time.
It could also adopt a statement:
- emphasising the importance of holding credible and fair elections;
- condemning the continuing acts of violence against civilians;
- commending the efforts of Afghan security forces, as they are now taking the security lead throughout the country; and
- expressing concern with the rise in opium production.
Council members may also consider requesting a report from the Secretary-General specifically on options for UNAMA’s mandate moving forward, considering that the December debate will be the penultimate one before the renewal of UNAMA’s mandate in March 2014, with ISAF’s withdrawal expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
There is considerable agreement among Council members on a number of issues related to Afghanistan. Several are keen to ensure that the preparation and conduct of the 5 April 2014 elections are viewed as credible and legitimate. They argue that a successful, democratic political transition is critical to the welfare of the country and its people moving forward. Several Council members also emphasise the importance of strengthening Afghan security forces as ISAF draws down, likely recognising that a safe security environment is necessary for political and economic development. There are likewise a number of Council members who have highlighted women’s protection and participation in Afghan society as key issues.
In spite of the fact that there is considerable agreement on several issues, some members continue to reiterate strongly held views in UNAMA debates that reflect their national interests. Russia, for example, has argued repeatedly that any post-2014 international military presence in the country must have a strong legal basis. Along with France and others, it is also especially concerned with the threat to international security posed by drug production and trafficking that originates in Afghanistan. Pakistan consistently notes its efforts to promote intra-Afghan reconciliation, as well as highlighting its support of Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan. As with other agenda items, Luxembourg continues to be a particularly strong advocate for the protection of children in Afghanistan.
Australia is the penholder on Afghanistan.
UN Documents on Afghanistan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|10 October 2013 S/RES/2120||This resolution extended the authorisation of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan until 31 December 2014.|
|19 March 2013 S/RES/2096||This resolution extended the mandate of UNAMA until 19 March 2014.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|19 September 2013 S/PV.7035||The Council held a debate on UNAMA.|