Expected Council Action
In December, 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). Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, is expected to brief. A civil society representative might also brief.
The mandate of UNAMA expires on 17 March 2019.
Key Recent Developments
Parliamentary and district council elections were held on 20 October in 32 out of 34 provinces. In Kandahar, elections were postponed for a week after an attack by the Taliban, two days before the election date, in which local police chief Abdul Raziq was killed. In Ghazni, elections did not take place due to several irregularities. The Council issued a press statement welcoming the holding of the elections while noting the difficult security environment. According to a UNAMA report on election violence, 56 Afghans died and 379 were injured on days when polling took place (20 October and the following days for postponed polling), constituting the highest level of casualties in any Afghan election since 2004. As of the publication of the report in November, UNAMA had attributed all but 59 casualties (mostly the result of the Afghan National Army defending election sites against anti-government forces) to anti-government forces, mainly the Taliban. UNAMA described this, together with violence perpetrated by the Taliban leading up to and related to the elections, as “a deliberate campaign intended to disrupt and undermine the electoral process”. Preliminary results of the elections from all provinces were initially to be announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on 20 November. However, the IEC has postponed the announcement.
On 9 November, Russia hosted an international meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow; participants included five members of the Taliban, all of whom are on the 1988 Sanctions Committee list of individuals for targeted sanctions. Also attending was a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council, a body appointed by the Afghan government to work on reconciliation with the Taliban. The Afghan government did not send a delegation, however.
Following the first round of talks in seven years between representatives of the US and the Taliban in late July, another meeting was held in Qatar from 16 to 19 November. The Taliban continue to say that they will hold direct talks not with the Afghan government, whose legitimacy they do not recognise, but rather with the US government as they seek the withdrawal of US and international troops from Afghanistan. The latest quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an oversight body reporting to the US Congress, puts Afghan government “control or influence” at 56 percent of Afghan territory and Taliban control at 18 percent, with the remaining 26 percent contested.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s wide-ranging offer to the Taliban, extended during the second meeting of the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation in Afghanistan in February, still stands. It includes a prisoner exchange, a review of the constitution, and the removal of sanctions against insurgents. The Taliban do not respond formally to offers by the Afghan government. Following a three-day ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban over Eid-al-Fitr in June, a conditional ceasefire—as announced by President Ghani on 20 August, the holiday of Eid al-Adha—started, but was not reciprocated by the Taliban. During his most recent Security Council briefing on 17 September, Yamamoto said that despite setbacks “we are in a better position now than at any time in the past 17 years to commence a process leading to talks for a negotiated end to the conflict.”
According to OCHA, 275,000 people were uprooted because of this year’s unusually severe drought, 52,000 more than the number of Afghans displaced due to conflict during the same period.
The drought also had an effect on opium poppy cultivation. The “Afghanistan Opium Survey 2018” conducted annually by the Afghanistan Ministry of Counter Narcotics together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found that opium poppy cultivation decreased by 20 percent compared to 2017, but that the level of cultivation still represented the second-highest since systematic recording began in 1994. The biggest decreases were recorded in the western and northern regions and were attributed mainly to the drought.
During its 12 November meeting, the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee was briefed by its Chair, Ambassador Kairat Umarov of Kazakhstan, and by Yamamoto.
Key Issues and Options
Afghan civilians still bear the heaviest burden of the security situation, which is further complicated by the presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (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, when opium cultivation was up 63 percent over 2016.
Council priorities include following closely the next steps in the framework of the Kabul process, awaiting the final results of the parliamentary and district council elections and a timetable for the 2019 presidential elections, and assessing the results of the 27-28 November ministerial Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, co-chaired by the Afghan government and the UN. A press statement by the Council in relation to all of these developments may be a possibility, considering that there have been Council products on these issues in the past.
Council members are generally supportive of UNAMA’s work, and remain concerned about the progressively more volatile security environment and its implications for the civilian population, specifically in the context of elections. Among permanent members, Russia in particular continues to emphasise the threat ISIL poses in Afghanistan and to question the utility of the NATO and US presence in the country, which it maintains does not help the situation and even increases casualties. The issue of attributing responsibility for civilian casualties remains a sensitive matter among the permanent members.
The Netherlands is the penholder on Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan chairs the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON AFGHANISTAN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|8 March 2018S/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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|23 July 2018S/PRST/2018/15||This was a presidential statement on the electoral process in Afghanistan, following the conclusion of the voter registration process on 18 July for this year’s parliamentary and district council elections and for the 2019 presidential elections.|
|19 January 2018S/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.|
|10 September 2018S/2018/824||This was the Secretary-General’s report on Afghanistan.|
|Security Council Letters|
|12 January 2018S/2018/37||This was a letter containing the terms of reference for the visiting mission to Afghanistan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|17 September 2018S/PV.8354||This is a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, and Ramiz Bakhtiar, the newly-elected Youth Representative of Afghanistan to the UN for 2018.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|20 November 2018SC/13596||Council members issued a press statement condemning in the strongest terms the 5 September terrorist attack in Kabul claimed by ISIL and the 11 September attack in Nangarhar, resulting in at least 61 people killed and numerous wounded.|
|23 October 2018SC/13551||Council members issued a press statement welcoming the holding of the elections while noting the difficult security environment and that voting in Kandahar, which was postponed, needs to still take place.|
|18 October 2018SC/13545||Security Council members issued a press statement condemning recent attacks and underscoring the importance of a secure environment for the elections.|
|11 September 2018SC/13498||Council members issued a press statement condemning the 5 September terrorist attack in Kabul claimed by ISIL and the 11 September attack in Nangarhar.|