Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is scheduled to hold its quarterly debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA Ján Kubiš is expected to brief.
Council members are also expected to review the implementation of resolution 2082 of 17 December 2012, which modified the Taliban sanctions regime to allow for a number of exemptions to facilitate travel by listed individuals to participate in Afghanistan’s reconciliation process. The Council is planning to adopt a resolution calling for minor adjustments to the functioning of the sanctions regime.
UNAMA’s mandate expires on 17 March 2015.
Key Recent Developments
On 5 April, Afghanistan held presidential and provincial elections. Among the eight presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, and Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister, received 45 percent and 31.5 percent of the vote, respectively, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). As neither candidate got 50 percent, a run-off election between Abdullah and Ghani has been scheduled for 14 June. The IEC certified the first-round results on 15 May, in spite of accusations of fraud made by Abdullah. On 15 May, the Council issued a press statement welcoming the certification of the first-round results by the IEC, while underscoring the continued need to detect and prevent fraud (SC/11399).
The Taliban had threatened to disrupt the elections with violence, with several deadly attacks in Kabul in the weeks before the vote: on 20 March nine were killed at the Serena Hotel (an incident condemned by the Council in a press statement [SC/11334]), five were killed at an election office on 25 March and six police officers were killed on 2 April outside the Interior Ministry.
While 16 security personnel and four civilians died in violence on the day of the election, voter turnout was high, with approximately seven million out of 12 million eligible voters going to the polls. Interior Minister Mohammed Umer Daudzai said the security forces had killed more than 80 insurgents and prevented numerous attempted assaults on voting facilities. The Council issued a press statement on 5 April welcoming the elections and commending “the participation and courage of the Afghan people to cast their ballot despite the threat and intimidation of the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups” (SC/11347).
On 8 May, the Taliban announced that their yearly spring military offensive would begin on 12 May, stating that the offensive would target foreigners, Afghans working with them (e.g. translators and logistics personnel) and Afghan political and security officials. On 12 May, the Taliban launched attacks throughout the country, leading to 12 deaths, including five civilians and two police officers at the justice ministry in Jalalabad (Nangarhar province), three police officers at a police base in Helmand province and two civilians and a police officer at police facilities in Ghazni province. In Laghman province, the Taliban killed four police officers on 21 May, and at least an additional 10 police officers (two in Nangarhar province and at least eight in Badakhshan) on 22 May. Also on 22 May, the bodies of eight police officers, who had been killed in a Taliban attack two weeks earlier, were located in Zabul province.
Kubiš last addressed the Council on 17 March during the quarterly UNAMA debate. He noted that the elections would mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power. He urged Afghans to be undeterred by extremist threats and to exercise their right to vote. Kubiš noted that while direct negotiations between the government and the Taliban remained elusive, efforts to develop frameworks for negotiation should continue. Ambassador Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) also addressed the Council noting the historic nature of the elections and asserting that a bilateral security agreement (BSA) would be signed soon with the US. At the meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2145, renewing UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2015.
While the BSA has yet to be signed, US President Barack Obama announced on 27 May that the US would leave a force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after 2014. These troops are expected to train Afghan government security forces and conduct counter-terrorism activities. Obama further noted that nearly all US troops in the country would be withdrawn by the end of 2016. (There are currently approximately 32,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan.)
An immediate key issue for the Council is what adjustments, if any, it would like to make to the 1988 Taliban sanctions regime.
Another immediate key issue is ensuring that the second round of the presidential elections are conducted peacefully and transparently, unmarred by violence and fraud.
As the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) continues its drawdown, another key issue is the ability of Afghan security forces to maintain security in the country.
The need to promote human rights and to fight drug production and trafficking are key ongoing issues.
Ensuring that UNAMA has adequate resources to fulfil its mandate is another important issue, given budget cuts to the mission in recent years.
With regard to the implementation of resolution 2082, the most likely option is for the Council to adopt a resolution maintaining the fundamental elements of the Taliban sanctions regime, while underscoring recommendations made in the latest report (S/2013/656) of the Monitoring Team assisting the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee, including:
- listing additional Taliban leaders “with significant military command authority” and mid-level commanders with responsibility for military operations, as well as businesses affiliated with the Haqqani terrorist network;
- encouraging states to provide information on residence, travel documents and aliases, as it becomes available; and
- encouraging states to include a notation in travel documents of listed individuals indicating that they are subject to a travel ban.
With respect to the situation in Afghanistan more broadly, the Council may wish to issue a statement at the conclusion of the second round of presidential elections. If the elections are deemed fair and transparent, the statement could welcome the democratic transition. Alternatively, if necessary, it could deplore any violence and electoral misconduct that might occur.
Council members were generally encouraged by the conduct of the first round of presidential and provincial elections. Given the challenging security environment in Afghanistan, most Council members emphasise the critical role of the Afghan National Security Forces in ensuring stability as ISAF draws down. Most members are also keen to ensure that the human rights gains that have been made since 2001 continue to be built upon, including the rights of women and children. Some members—notably Chad, France, Russia and Rwanda—are especially concerned about the threat posed by drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan, in large part because they believe that the illicit funds from narcotics fuel extremism.
Australia is the penholder on UNAMA and the chair of the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Afghanistan
|Security Council Resolutions|
|17 March 2014 S/RES/2145||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNAMA for a year.|
|17 December 2012 S/RES/2082||This resolution modified the Taliban (1988) sanctions regime, allowing for a number of exemptions to make it easier for listed individuals to travel in order to participate in meetings in support of peace and reconciliation. It also renewed the Committee’s Monitoring Team.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|17 March 2014 S/PV.7139||The Council was briefed by Jan Kubis, the Special Representative to Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, on the Secretary-General’s report (S/2014/163) and Ambassador Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan) participated.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|15 May 2014 SC/11399||This statement welcomed the certification of the first round of presidential elections by the IEC.|
|5 April 2014 SC/11347||This press statement welcomed the first round of presidential and provincial elections.|