Quarterly Afghanistan Debate
Tomorrow morning the Council is scheduled to hold its quarterly debate on Afghanistan. Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is expected to brief. No Council outcome is anticipated at the debate.
Several issues are likely to be addressed during the debate. A continuing concern among several Council members is the challenging security environment and the toll that the conflict is taking on civilians, including women and children. For example, at the last UNAMA debate on 19 March, Guatemala noted the significant rise in attacks on women and girls, while Luxembourg pointed to attacks on schools and the use of child suicide bombers by extremists as violations of the rights of children. Since the last debate, the security situation has deteriorated further, with the Secretary-General noting in his recent report (S/2013/350) that he is “gravely concerned by an increase of 25 per cent in civilian casualties in the present quarter.” It therefore seems likely that the devastating impact of the conflict on civilians, primarily the result of the actions of anti-government forces, will be mentioned by some Council members.
A related issue that will likely be raised in the debate is the reconciliation process with the Taliban. The Secretary-General noted in his report that “good offices and political outreach in support of Afghan-led reconciliation and regional processes” are among UNAMA’s “core tasks,” although he said that the “peace process saw few concrete results” in the reporting period. There may be references in the debate to the opening of a Taliban office earlier this week in Doha which is expected to allow them to pursue talks on the country’s future. Media reports have suggested that talks in Doha between the Taliban and US officials could begin as early as tomorrow, but the Afghan government has expressed its opposition to these talks, believing that the negotiations must be “Afghan-led” and taking issue with the naming the office “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”. (This is the official title of the 1996-2001 Taliban-led government that no UN member state currently recognises.) As a sign of its displeasure with these talks, the Afghan government also cancelled scheduled bilateral talks with the US on the role of the US troops in Afghanistan after 2014.
Another area of interest to several Council members is the preparations for the presidential and provincial elections, currently scheduled for 5 April 2014. While some progress has been made in the preparations, concerns may be expressed by some members at the delays in enacting critical electoral legislation, including the Electoral Law, which will provide a framework for the conduct of the elections; and the Law on the Structure and Duties of the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission.
Counter-narcotics efforts will also likely be discussed in the debate, especially considering the results of the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2012, a joint report of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime and the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics, which indicated that there was an 18 percent increase in opium production in Afghanistan in 2012 compared to 2011. Some members —notably France, Pakistan and Russia —have highlighted the need to bolster efforts to combat drug production and trafficking related to Afghanistan.