Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will hold its quarterly debate on Afghanistan and will consider the latest Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA Tadamichi Yamamoto is expected to brief. A representative from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime might also brief.
The mandate of UNAMA expires on 17 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
The second meeting of the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation in Afghanistan took place on 28 February. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered a wide-ranging proposal to the Taliban that included talks about a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, review of the constitution, and the removal of sanctions against insurgents. A trend of increased attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since the beginning of 2018 has continued, however. On 21 March, the Iranian New Year (Nowruz), ISIL claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed at least 33 people and injured 65. During another attack by ISIL at a voter registration centre in Kabul, at least 50 people were killed and 100 injured. On 30 April two attacks by ISIL in Kabul and Kandahar resulted in at least 41 killed and 45 injured. The Council issued press statements condemning all of these attacks. Additionally, the Taliban launched attacks against several other voter registration centres across the country.
On 10 May, UNAMA released a special report detailing a pattern of election-related attacks and abuses during the initial voter registration period ahead of elections in October. The report identified 23 election-related security incidents since voter registration began on 14 April, resulting in 271 civilians killed or injured.
At press time, a formal response by the Taliban to Ghani’s offer was still outstanding; meanwhile, on 25 April, the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and the beginning of the fighting season.
Following the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his strategic review of UNAMA, the Council adopted resolution 2405 on 8 March to renew UNAMA’s mandate for another year. The core of the mandate (good offices, human rights monitoring, protection of civilians, and the promotion of good governance and regional cooperation) remains unchanged. The resolution incorporates new language in several areas, including with regard to finding a political solution to the conflict; women’s social, economic and political engagement in Afghanistan; counter-terrorism; and elections.
During his last Council briefing on 8 March, Yamamoto reported accelerated progress on preparations for voter registration for the upcoming parliamentary elections. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that elections would be held on 20 October. Much of the ability of Afghanistan to conduct inclusive elections will depend on the security situation, which has continued to worsen over the past several months.
In other developments, following a request by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on 3 November 2017 to open an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan, the victims representation process at the ICC concluded on 31 January. During this process, victims of the alleged crimes were able to submit their views. In conjunction with the facts presented by Bensouda, the judges will decide whether or not to comply with the prosecutor’s request to authorise an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan since May 2003.
On 15 May, the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee received a briefing from the Monitoring Team, which presented its ninth report, reiterating that it remains underutilised because of a lack of new listings during the reporting period.
Human Rights-Related Developments
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour visited Afghanistan from 8 to 11 May, where he met with President Ghani, government officials, women’s organisations, and civil society. In an 11 May press release, he expressed concern over continued attacks on civilians, mainly by extremists and stressed that the UN Human Rights team in Afghanistan continues to document high levels of civilian casualties, particularly as a result of suicide attacks in densely populated areas. He also expressed concern over discrimination against Afghan women at all levels of society and urged the authorities to investigate and prosecute military and civilian perpetrators of the sexual abuse of boys.
Key Issues and Options
The Council faces many issues that have continued to grow in complexity. Afghan civilians bear the heaviest burden of the worsening security situation, exacerbated most recently by an increase in attacks following the start of the voter registration in April. The security situation is further complicated by the increased presence of ISIL and other terrorist groups. Insurgency in Afghanistan continues to be closely interlinked with illicit drug production and trafficking, activities that reached record levels during 2017. In that context, the 1988 Committee could hold an informal briefing open to all UN member states in order to draw attention to the possibility of proposing individuals involved in the narcotics trade with the Taliban.
Awaiting the next steps in the framework of the Kabul process and holding credible and inclusive parliamentary elections in 2018 and presidential elections in 2019 continue to be the main concerns for the Council. The Council could issue a presidential or press statement, reiterating its call upon the Taliban to engage in direct peace talks with the government ahead of the elections along the lines of President Ghani’s offer.
Council members are generally concerned about the progressively volatile security environment and its implications for the civilian population. In addition to the recent surge of hostilities by the Taliban, the presence of ISIL and its violent tactics have added another layer of complexity to the conflict with the potential to deepen ethnic and sectarian tensions. Among permanent members, Russia has continued to emphasise the threat posed by ISIL in Afghanistan, given that the group has now been defeated in its former strongholds in the Middle East. At the last debate, Russia described Afghanistan as a springboard for further expansion by ISIL into the region. That debate took place on 8 March, International Women’s Day, and saw members commenting on the necessity for women’s participation, especially in connection with the upcoming elections. Following that debate, Council members were able to unite behind a press statement welcoming the convening of the second meeting of the Kabul Process. Russia regularly emphasises the importance of the regional context and the valuable role played by regional organisations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Russia continues to question the utility of the US and NATO presence in the country, which it maintains does not help the situation and even increases casualties.
The Netherlands is the penholder on Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan chairs the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON AFGHANISTAN
|Security Council Resolutions
|8 March 2018 S/RES/2405
|This was a resolution, unanimously adopted, extending the mandate of UNAMA for another year, welcoming the strategic review of the mission, and calling for implementation of its recommendations.
|21 December 2015 S/RES/2255
|The Council adopted this resolution containing language clarifying how the 1988 Afghanistan sanctions regime functions and reflecting changing conflict dynamics in Afghanistan.
|Security Council Presidential Statements
|19 January 2018 S/PRST/2018/2
|This presidential statement emphasised the importance of advancing regional, interregional and international cooperation to achieve stability and sustainable development in Afghanistan and the Central Asian region.
|24 August 2017 S/PRST/2017/15
|This was a statement on the review of the implementation of resolution 2255.
|27 February 2018 S/2018/165
|This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNAMA.
|Security Council Press Statements
|1 May 2018 SC/13323
|This was a press statement condemning the 30 April terrorist attacks in Kabul and Kandahar, which resulted in at least 41 people killed and 45 injured.
|23 April 2018 SC/13314
|This was a press statement condemning the ISIL terrorist attack targeting a voter registration center in Kabul that resulted in the deaths of at least 50 and injury to about 100 people.
|21 March 2018 SC/13258
|This was a press statement condemning the terrorist attack in Kabul on the same day, claimed by ISIL, which resulted in at least 33 people killed and 65 injured.
|15 March 2018 SC/13251
|This was a press statement welcoming the convening of the Kabul Process conference and calling on the Taliban to accept the offer of direct talks with the government.
|Security Council Meeting Records
|8 March 2018 S/PV.8199
|This was a debate on the situation in Afghanistan in which Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto briefed the Council on the latest UNAMA report.