Expected Council Action
In September, the Council will hold its quarterly debate on Afghanistan, during which it will consider the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Tadamichi Yamamo, who was appointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan and head of UNAMA in June, is expected to brief.
UNAMA’s mandate expires on 17 March 2017.
Key Recent Developments
The insurgency continues to take a heavy toll on the population and Afghan security forces. The Taliban’s increased activity and military gains in the country—as well as activity by Al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—have been resisted by Afghan security forces with the assistance of NATO.
Several terrorist attacks occurred on 20 June. An improvised explosive device in a bazaar in Kishem district, in Badakhshan province, killed ten civilians, including five children, and injured 36 others. In Kabul, a suicide attack on Nepalese and Indian contractors and an improvised explosive device targeting a provincial council member resulted in at least 27 killed and 48 wounded. The Council condemned these attacks in a press statement. On 23 July, Council members issued a press statement condemning the terrorist attack that occurred earlier that day in Kabul, resulting in at least 80 people killed and more than 230 wounded, for which local affiliates of ISIL claimed responsibility. On 25 August, Council members condemned in a press statement a terrorist attack that occurred on 24 August in Kabul, targeting students of the American University of Afghanistan, which resulted in at least 13 people dead and 50 people injured.
In August, the Taliban made significant headway in the key northern district of Baghlan. They have also continued to advance in Helmand Province in the south over the last few months.
On 12 August, the US announced that the head of the ISIL Afghanistan branch, Hafiz Saeed Khan, had been killed in a US airstrike in the eastern Nangarhar province on 26 July.
Reconciliation talks between the Taliban and the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which consists of Afghan, Chinese, Pakistani and US officials, remain dormant. The new Taliban head, Haibatullah Akhundzada, recently said that a Taliban delegation had visited China on 18-22 July. It appears that Taliban hesitancy to fully engage and Afghan-Pakistan tensions are at the core of the current deadlock.
The Afghan government power-sharing arrangement between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah is at a critical impasse. The arrangement calls for parliamentary elections and constitutional reforms by the end of September, but Afghan stakeholders have yet to reach agreement on these issues. This has caused public tensions between the two leaders, raising concerns over future Afghan governance prior to the donor conference scheduled in Brussels in October.
On 6 July, US President Barack Obama announced that the current US military presence of 8,400 troops would be maintained until the end of his term in January 2017. The US is the main contributor to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, which numbers roughly 13,000 troops. As expected, NATO and Afghan officials issued a declaration on Afghanistan during the NATO summit held in Warsaw on 8-9 July. In the declaration, NATO agreed to continue its financial support to the Afghan Security Forces until through 2020. NATO also agreed to sustain its support mission assisting Afghan forces beyond 2016.
The Council held its last quarterly debate on Afghanistan on 21 June. Briefing the Council for the last time, the then Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom, reminded Council members that during the previous quarterly debate he had said that it would be an achievement for the Afghan national unity government not to collapse in 2016. While noting progress on some issues, he said it was critical for Afghanistan to secure medium-term financial and military support from the international community, lay a foundation for a viable peace process and address the high level of violence and the lack of a set timetable for elections.
The 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee held informal consultations on 1 June to meet with a representative of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (a security alliance between Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) about counter-narcotic efforts.
The Committee amended and added details to the listing of Taliban commander Shah Nawaz Rahmatullah on 21 July.
On 8 August, the Committee met with the Monitoring Team assisting the Committee and representatives of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for updates on counter-narcotics efforts, including those of the Combined Maritime Force in the Arabian Sea (consisting of the forces of 26 NATO states and Thailand). Committee members also discussed possible updates to details pertaining to the assets of former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan on 21 May.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 25 July, UNAMA, in coordination with the UN Human Rights Office, released its mid-year report on protection of civilians in armed conflict, covering 1 January to 30 June. The report documents a record number of civilian casualties since counting began in 2009, with 5,166 civilians killed or maimed (1,601 killed and 3,565 injured) in the first six months of 2016, of whom almost one-third were children (388 killed and 1,121 injured). This represents an increase of 4 percent in the total number of casualties compared to the first six months of 2015 and is the highest half-year total since 2009. The total civilian casualty figure recorded by the UN between 1 January 2009 and 30 June has risen to 63,934 (22,941 killed and 40,993 injured).
During the reporting period, anti-government elements remained responsible for the majority (60 percent) of civilian casualties, but there was an increase in the number of civilians killed and injured by pro-government forces. Also during the reporting period, 157,987 Afghans were newly displaced, marking a 10 percent increase over the same period last year. The report also documents other serious human rights violations and abuses, including the deliberate targeting of women in the public sphere; use of children in armed conflict; sexual violence against boys and girls; attacks on educational and health facilities; abductions and summary executions; and the targeting of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and judges.
An important issue for the next months is how the Council may encourage the political actors to meet the agreed electoral calendar.
The ongoing key issue has been how to address the deteriorating security situation, its negative impact on the country’s stability and the toll the conflict is taking on the civilian population.
A related issue is whether it is possible to generate momentum for reconciliation efforts, given the continuing heavy fighting between the insurgency and government forces.
The link between drug production and trafficking and the insurgency is another ongoing issue.
The Council could adopt a resolution or presidential statement that:
• deplores the high number of civilian casualties and demands that all sides avoid killing and injuring civilians, recalling that targeting civilians is a war crime;
• encourages efforts by the international community to support reconciliation in Afghanistan; and
• emphasises the importance of development assistance in promoting Afghanistan’s stability.
The Council could also decide to visit Afghanistan to show its support for anti-insurgency, reconciliation and anti-corruption efforts and to learn how it can further assist efforts on the ground.
There is widespread concern among Council members about the deteriorating security environment and the toll that the conflict continues to take on civilians. There are also concerns over the fragility of the power-sharing arrangements and the uncertainty of the electoral calendar.
Several Council members also recognise that after NATO pledged its continued military support in Warsaw, the upcoming Brussels conference will be pivotal in continuing international support for Afghanistan.
Several Council members—in particular, France and Russia and, more recently, Egypt and Venezuela—have regularly raised concerns about the connection between drug production and trafficking and the insurgency. Russia, Egypt and Venezuela have also emphasised the increased activities of ISIL in Afghanistan as a major concern.
During the 15 March briefing on Afghanistan, Japan suggested a Council visiting mission to the country. Council members considered such a trip in July, but they eventually decided against it for security and logistical reasons. However, the idea may resurface in the future.
Spain is the penholder on Afghanistan, and New Zealand is the chair of the 1988 Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on Afghanistan
|Security Council Resolution|
|15 March 2016 S/RES/2274||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMA for one year.|
|10 June 2016 S/2016/532||This was the report of the Secretary-General on UNAMA.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|21 June 2016 S/PV.7722||This was the quarterly debate on Afghanistan.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|25 August 2016 SC/12491||This was a press statement that condemned the terrorist attack that occurred on 24 August in Kabul, which resulted in at least 13 people dead and 50 people injured.|
|23 July 2016 SC/12457||This was a press statement condemning the terrorist attack that occurred earlier that day in Kabul, resulting in the death of at least 80 people killed and more than 230 wounded, for which local affiliates of ISIL have claimed responsibility.|
|30 June 2016 SC/12413||This was a press statement condemning the 20 June terrorist attacks in Kabul and Badakhshan Province.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|21 July 2016 SC/12453||This was a press statement that amended and added details to the listing of Taliban commander Shah Nawaz Rahmatullah.|