Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council is scheduled to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), set to expire on 17 September. The Council will also hold its quarterly meeting on Afghanistan and will consider the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNAMA, due in early September. Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, is expected to brief. Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia), as chair of the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee, and representatives of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the UN Counter-Terrorism Office may also brief.
Key Recent Developments
Several negotiating tracks geared towards peace in Afghanistan continue to be pursued. On 20 August, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, travelled to Doha for the ninth round of talks with the Taliban. The Taliban continue to insist on holding talks with the US government as they seek the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan rather than with the Afghan government, whose legitimacy they do not recognise. In exchange for a timeline for US and NATO troop withdrawal, the talks are aimed at having the Taliban guarantee that they will not allow armed groups on Afghan territory to launch attacks in or outside Afghanistan. An intra-Afghan dialogue and a ceasefire are also goals of the talks. During a June trip to Kabul, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope for an agreement before 1 September. Presidential elections are scheduled for 28 September. Talks on 7 and 8 July, co-hosted by Germany and Qatar, included representatives from the Afghan government, the Taliban, and civil society. The participants attended these intra-Afghan talks in their personal (as opposed to institutional) capacities. The outcome document of the talks asks the conflict parties to consider committing “to minimize the civilian casualties to zero”.
On 19 June, the Council held a debate on the situation in Afghanistan. In his briefing, Yamamoto stressed that all efforts towards peace in Afghanistan need to have as an objective direct formal negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban aimed at a peace agreement.
In July and August, the Council adopted three press statements condemning several terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. A 3 July press statement followed a terrorist attack in Kabul, claimed by the Taliban, that resulted in at least 35 people killed and more than 70 injured. A 1 August press statement was in response to a terrorist attack on 31 July on a bus on the Kandahar-Herat Highway, that killed at least 34 people and left at least 12 injured, and other terrorist attacks that took place on 25 July in Kabul, Takhar and Nangarhar provinces and on 29 July in Kabul. On 19 August, Afghanistan celebrated 100 years of independence from British protectorate status. During festivities in the city of Jalalabad, about ten explosions resulted in at least 100 people wounded. The main celebrations were halted because of a 17 August attack on a wedding in Kabul, resulting in at least 80 dead and 160 injured, claimed by the Islamic State Khorasan Province, an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Council condemned these attacks in a 20 August press statement.
UNAMA’s 30 July quarterly report on protection of civilians in armed conflict points to a continued trend towards pro-government forces being responsible for more civilian deaths than anti-government elements.
Afghanistan remains the country with the highest number of child casualties, with 3,062, according to the Secretary-General’s 20 June report on children and armed conflict, covering January to December 2018.
According to the 24th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989/2253 Al-Qaida/ISIL Sanctions Committee, the second-largest concentration of active foreign terrorist fighters is currently found in Afghanistan (after Idlib, Syria). Numbering between 8,000 and 10,000, they are mostly aligned with Al-Qaida. The report further said that “concerns remain about the short- and long-term threats posed by ISIL- and Al-Qaida-aligned groups and foreign terrorist fighters who have established themselves on Afghan territory”. On the relationship between Al-Qaida and the Taliban, the report emphasised that Afghanistan continues to be considered a safe haven for Al-Qaida leadership because of its strong and long-standing relationship with the leadership of the Taliban.
According to the 10th report of the Monitoring Team of the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee, Afghanistan continues to have the largest number of ISIL fighters outside Syria and Iraq. Approximately 2,500 to 4,000 fighters remain in two provinces in the east of the country. On the Taliban, the report notes that the number of districts under Taliban control has roughly doubled in comparison to the previous year. During the one-year reporting period, Taliban income from narcotics was $400 million, as estimated by Afghan authorities.
At press time, the UN’s 2019 humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan of $611.8 million was funded at 39.5 percent, with $370.3 million outstanding.
Women, Peace and Security
On 26 July, the Council held a meeting following a 20 to 21 July trip to Afghanistan by a high-level UN delegation with a focus on women, peace and security. The delegation was led by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and included Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund Natalia Kanem, and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Mohammed, DiCarlo and women’s rights activist Jamila Afghani briefed. Mohammed said that during their trip, the participants had “heard a strong call from Afghan women for peace—but for peace that safeguards their hard-won rights and does not backtrack on what has been achieved.” She added that the UN had received reports of attacks on women’s rights, including honour killings and stoning in areas controlled by the Taliban. DiCarlo referred to the announcement of the Independent Electoral Commission that 9.6 million voters are registered, noting that there are more than 500,000 newly registered voters, of which 36 percent are women. Afghani said that the security threats women are facing, such as attacks on schools and workplaces, limit the exercise of their political, civil, social and cultural rights. During the 19 June quarterly meeting on Afghanistan, Sima Samar, chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, also spoke of fears of “going back to the time when Afghans, especially women and minorities, were denied their rights and freedoms”. Ongoing talks with the Taliban were raising concerns “about the commitment of the parties to preserving Afghan progress on human rights, freedom, democracy and economic development”.
Key Issues and Options
One immediate issue facing the Council is a possible agreement between the US and the Taliban and how it may endorse such an agreement. Another immediate issue for Council members in September is the renewal of the UNAMA mandate. Afghanistan will face several possible political scenarios if there is an agreement between the US and the Taliban. The Council may have to address if and how that would change UNAMA’s role, which is currently primarily supporting the electoral process. An option for the Council would be to adopt another “technical rollover” of UNAMA’s mandate for a few months and await further developments. Generally, the Council may also aim at clarifying UNAMA’s mandate in the resolution while shortening the text.
The last Council meeting on Afghanistan in June took the form of a debate, giving states outside the Council with interests in the country, including states of the region, the opportunity to speak. Ahead of the mandate renewal and considering ongoing developments in the situation, Council members may instead be interested in having a briefing, followed by consultations, to allow for a more interactive and frank discussion with Yamamoto, as they had in March.
Council members are generally united in their support for UNAMA and are committed to a peace process. They remain concerned about the overall security, political, and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Several members of the Council are engaged in different talks aimed at a 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.
Ahead of UNAMA’s last mandate renewal in March, Council members held several rounds of negotiations and bilateral meetings, but no agreement could be reached on the original draft resolution, leading the co-penholders to pursue a six-month technical rollover of the mandate. China and the US were deadlocked on whether to maintain a reference to the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” (language agreed to in preceding resolutions) in the context of welcoming regional economic cooperation.
Germany and Indonesia are co-penholders on Afghanistan, and Ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia) chairs the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON AFGHANISTAN
|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.|
|20 June 2019S/2019/509||This was the annual report on children and armed conflict.|
|30 August 2019S/2019/493||This was the latest report on Afghanistan.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|30 August 2019S/2019/570||This was the 24th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and associated individuals and entities.|
|30 August 2019S/2019/481||This was the 10th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team submitted pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011).|
|14 December 2018S/2018/1118||This was the report of the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|26 July 2019S/PV.8587||The Council had a meeting following a recent trip to Afghanistan by a high-level UN delegation with a focus on women, peace and security.|
|19 June 2019S/PV.8555||The Council held its quarterly meeting on Afghanistan.|
|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.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|30 August 2019SC/13921||This condemned a 17 August terrorist attack in Kabul on a wedding hall, resulting in at least 70 civilians dead and at least 180 injured, claimed by the Islamic State Khorasan Province; it further condemned the 19 August attacks in Jalalabad, the day of Afghanistan’s centennial independence celebrations.|
|30 August 2019SC/13906||This condemned several terrorist attacks: one on 31 July on a bus on the Kandahar-Herat Highway, resulting in at least 34 people dead and at least 12 injured, and others that took place on 25 July in Kabul, Takhar and Nangarhar provinces and on 29 July in Kabul.|
|3 July 2019SC/13872||Council members issued a press statement condemning in the strongest terms a terrorist attack claimed by the Taliban on 1 July in Kabul that resulted in the death of at least 35 people and more than 70 injured.|