Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will hold its quarterly meeting on Afghanistan and will consider the latest Secretary-General’s report on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), due in June. Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, is expected to brief.
The mandate of UNAMA expires on 17 September.
Key Recent Developments
On 15 March, Germany and Indonesia, the co-penholders on Afghanistan, put the “technical rollover” resolution 2460 to a vote; the Council adopted it unanimously, extending the mandate of UNAMA until 17 September without changes. Although Council members held several rounds of negotiations and bilateral meetings, no agreement could be reached on the original draft resolution, after which the decision was made by the penholders to pursue a technical rollover. China and the US were deadlocked on whether to maintain a reference to the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” (language agreed in preceding resolutions) in the context of welcoming regional economic cooperation. After the adoption, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen expressed his regret that “issues that have nothing to do with it and are not related to the excellent work and mandate of UNAMA made it impossible to achieve the resolution for which we had originally aimed”. The next mandate renewal had been intended to take place after the presidential elections, which at the time of the adoption of resolution 2460 were scheduled for July. At press time, the presidential elections had been re-scheduled for 28 September.
Several talks geared towards peace in Afghanistan are being pursued. Following the first round of talks in seven years between representatives of the US and the Taliban in late July 2018, the sixth such meeting was held in Doha, Qatar, from 1 to 9 May. The Taliban continue to insist on holding direct talks with the US government rather than the Afghan government, whose legitimacy they do not recognise, as they seek the withdrawal of US and international troops from Afghanistan. Also in Doha, Yamamoto met on 25 April with the co-founder of the Taliban, Mullah Baradar Akhund, and the Taliban negotiating team, in line with established practice. Yamamoto addressed issues related to the peace process, humanitarian assistance, and human rights.
From 29 April to 3 May, a “Loya Jirga” (Grand Council) was held in Kabul, intended to discuss the way forward with the Taliban. The more than 3,200 Afghan participants included politicians and tribal leaders. The resulting declaration offers 23 points as a framework for future peace negotiations.
Several other Afghanistan-focused international meetings were held recently. On 25 April, special representatives of the Russian president, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, and the US State Department met in Moscow on Afghanistan and issued a trilateral declaration. On 23 April, a “Europe-US” meeting was held in London on “Supporting Peace in Afghanistan”; countries participating adopted a joint statement as well. Both outcomes emphasised that any peace process starts with the Afghan people.
UNAMA’s third anti-corruption report, published in May, welcomed a strengthened institutional, normative and legal framework to address corruption in Afghanistan but cautioned that implementation requires a sustained effort. Last year, Afghanistan ranked 172 out of 180 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (moving up from 177 in 2017).
The latest quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an oversight body reporting to the US Congress, issued on 30 April, stated that SIGAR had been notified by the US-commanded NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan that the mission no longer assessed government and insurgent “control or influence” over Afghan territory and population.
UNAMA’s quarterly report of 24 April on “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict” points out “with concern that Pro-Government Forces were responsible for more civilian deaths than Anti-Government Elements” during the reporting period.
On 11 March, the Council held a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan. Briefers included Yamamoto; Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib; and Deputy Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Network, Storai Tapesh. In his briefing, Yamamoto stressed the vital need for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. However, progress in peace talks including the Taliban may mean a regression in civil rights, including women’s rights, and Yamamoto acknowledged that Afghan citizens have fundamental and legitimate concerns in that regard. This briefing was followed by consultations to allow for a more detailed discussion on ongoing peace talks in a closed format.
The Independent Electoral Commission’s announcement of all the final results of last year’s parliamentary and district council elections continues to be postponed.
At press time, the UN’s 2019 humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan of $611.8 million was funded at 20.5 percent, with $486.4 million outstanding.
On 13 March, the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee met with and was briefed by the newly appointed Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, Adela Raz, and Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib. In other developments, exemptions from the travel ban for 11 members of the Taliban were requested and granted for the purposes of peace talks.
On 20 November 2017, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested authorisation from the Court’s judges to initiate an investigation into alleged international crimes in the context of the ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan since 2003. These included war crimes (committed by the Taliban and their affiliated Haqqani Network, Afghan security forces, the US armed forces, and the US Central Intelligence Agency) and crimes against humanity (committed by the Taliban and their affiliated Haqqani Network). The victims representation process at the ICC concluded on 31 January 2018. The judges received a report prepared by the Victims Participation and Reparations Section; a redacted version of the report was made public on 20 February 2018.
On 12 April, the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber II unanimously rejected the prosecutor’s request. Although it met the requirements for jurisdiction and admissibility, they said the context of the situation in Afghanistan renders the “prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited”. The judges concluded that an investigation “would not serve the interests of justice”, a criterion set out in the Rome Statute of the ICC. Reacting to the decision, the Office of the Prosecutor said it will consider all available legal remedies.
Women, Peace and Security
According to UNAMA, out of 18 incidents targeting education in the first quarter of 2019, four were attacks by the Taliban on girls’ schools, including setting buildings and equipment on fire, affecting the education of about 300 girls.
Key Issues and Options
Council priorities include awaiting the final results of the 2018 parliamentary and district council elections and a timetable for the 2019 presidential elections, and how the Council can support UNAMA in implementing its mandate, including support for the election and the political processes. In order for Council members and Yamamoto to have a more interactive and frank discussion after the briefing, the Council may again meet in consultations as opposed to a debate only.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are generally supportive of UNAMA’s work, remain concerned about the security, humanitarian and political situation in Afghanistan, and are committed to the peace process. Several members of the Council are engaged in different talks aiming at a negotiated peace agreement, which do not always include the Afghan government. Most members routinely emphasise that a peace process in Afghanistan has to be Afghan-led. Looking forward, including the upcoming mandate renewal, it remains to be seen how the stalemate between the US and China on the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” can be resolved.
Germany and Indonesia are co-penholders on Afghanistan, and Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia) chairs the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 March 2019S/RES/2460||This was a resolution in which a “technical rollover” was adopted, extending the mandate UNAMA for six months.|
|28 February 2019S/2019/193||This was the Secretary-General’s report on Afghanistan.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 March 2019S/PV.8485||This was the meeting at which the Council adopted resolution 2460, a “technical rollover” extending the mandate of UNAMA for six months.|
|11 March 2019S/PV.8481||This was a meeting on the situation in Afghanistan.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|15 April 2019SC/13781||This was a press statement condemning the announcement by the Taliban of a spring offensive, underscoring that calls for more fighting will not contribute to making a sustainable peace, and calling on all conflict parties to seize the opportunity to begin an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that result in a political settlement.|