December 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2016
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Expected Council Action

In December, the Council will hold its quarterly debate on Afghanistan, during which it will consider the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamo, is expected to brief. The Chair of the Sanctions Committee, Gerard van Bohemen (New Zealand), may also brief on his recent visit to Afghanistan.

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 as the security situation deteriorates.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has lost a significant part of the territory it previously controlled, but clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces have intensified, with the Taliban gaining more ground. The capitals of Helmand and Kunduz provinces remain under threat, with NATO airstrikes preventing the Taliban from overrunning them. (Kunduz city was briefly captured by the Taliban twice this year.) A suicide attack on 11 November outside the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif killed six people and wounded 120 others. 

The Taliban refuses to enter a political dialogue. However, the government was able to reach a reconciliation agreement with Gulbuddin Hekmaytar, leader of the Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) group, on 29 September.

During anti-Taliban operations on 3 November, a US airstrike near Kunduz City killed 32 people, mostly women and children. UNAMA called the loss of life “unacceptable” and said it will investigate the incident.

The ICC prosecutor is expected to announce soon whether she will open a formal investigation into the situation in Afghanistan. The prosecutor has been conducting a preliminary examination to assess allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Taliban, torture and related ill-treatment by Afghan government forces, and torture and related ill-treatment by US forces deployed to Afghanistan.

On the political front, the power-sharing arrangement between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, which called for parliamentary elections and constitutional reforms by the end of September, will remain in place despite its formal expiry. The public tension between the two leaders continues to undermine stabilisation efforts in the country and much-needed reforms. In addition, seven out of 12 cabinet ministers, including the foreign minister, were sacked by the parliament for alleged shortcomings in their performance  

The Council held its last quarterly debate on Afghanistan on 14 September. On the same day, the Council issued a presidential statement calling on the international community to continue its civilian and development efforts to assist Afghanistan, ahead of the 5 October Brussels Conference hosted by Afghanistan and the EU. During the Conference, pledges were made amounting to $15.2 billion.

At a NATO conference in Warsaw on 8-9 July, NATO agreed to continue its financial support to the Afghan Security Forces through 2020 and to sustain its support mission assisting Afghan forces beyond 2016.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee met on 24 October with the head of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to discuss counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The Committee also discussed the report of the Monitoring Team assisting the Committee, which it received on 3 October. The report states that the Taliban continues to be involved in the illegal extraction of natural resources and the opium trade. In addition, the report also notes that, according to some estimates, there are about 45,000 insurgents active in Afghanistan; of these, around 20 to 25 percent are foreign terrorist fighters.

On 27 October, the Committee met with Afghanistan’s UN mission to discuss reconciliation efforts in the country. On 14 November, the Committee met with the representative in Kabul of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Van Bohemen visited Afghanistan between 11 and 13 November, as the Chair of the 1267 Committee, meeting with Ghani and several government ministers. Representatives from the US, Spain, the UK, and incoming Council member Kazakhstan (which is expected to chair the Committee next year), as well as two members of the Monitoring Team accompanied the Chair. A main theme in discussions was how to use the sanctions regime to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, both by better implementation of sanctions against its members and by cracking down on its financing, such as through drug trafficking.   

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 20 October, the independent expert on internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, released an end-of-mission statement following his 11 to 20 October mission to Afghanistan. The statement said that “many thousands live in dire conditions and face abject poverty on the margins of urban centres, often with little or no long-term assistance”. Beyani called on the government of Afghanistan to intensify its efforts to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of IDPs, warning that a deteriorating security situation could lead to massive new displacement. It also urged the international community “to remain consistent humanitarian and development partners at this critical time”. The independent expert will present a report to the Human Rights Council in June 2017.

Key Issues

The ongoing key issue has been how to address the deteriorating security situation, its devastating 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 continued heavy fighting between the insurgency and government forces.

The link between the insurgency and drug production and trafficking 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
  • calls for accountability for alleged crimes committed.

The Council could also decide to visit Afghanistan to show its support for anti-insurgency, reconciliation and anti-corruption efforts, and to discuss how it can further assist efforts on the ground.

Council Dynamics

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 about the fragility of the power-sharing arrangement. Council members hope that the successful NATO summit and Brussels Conference can assist in arresting the downward spiral and boost stabilisation and reform efforts. 

Several Council members—in particular, France and Russia and, more recently, Egypt and Venezuela—have regularly raised concerns about the connection between the insurgency and drug production and trafficking.

Spain is the penholder on Afghanistan, and New Zealand is the chair of the 1988 Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolution
15 March 2016 S/RES/2274 This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNAMA for one year.
Security Council Presidential Statement
14 September 2016 S/PRST/2016/14 This was a presidential statement calling on the international community to continue its civilian and development efforts to assist Afghanistan, ahead of the 5 October 2016 Brussels Conference hosted by Afghanistan and the EU.
Secretary-General’s Report
7 September 2016 S/2016/768 This was the report of the Secretary-General on UNAMA.
Security Council Meeting Record
14 September 2016 S/PV.7771 This was the quarterly debate on Afghanistan.
Sanctions Committee Documents
4 October 2016 S/2016/842 This was the seventh report of the Monitoring Team assisting the Committee on the situation in Afghanistan.
7 September 2016 SC/12510 This amended and added details to 14 listings on the sanctions list.

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