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Debate on UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

Tomorrow morning (19 September), the Security Council will hold its quarterly debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNAMA, is expected to brief, focusing on the recent report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan (S/2013/535).

Several key issues are likely to be raised in the debate by Kubiš and several delegations. One of the major areas of focus is likely to be the preparations for the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections. Members are generally encouraged that two key pieces of electoral legislation—the Electoral Law, which provides the 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-—were adopted in July.

However, members are aware of how critical it is that the elections are free and fair in order to ensure the legitimacy of the government, especially considering the fraud that marred the 2009 presidential elections, and may want more information on what is being done to ensure against a similar outcome.

A related matter that may be discussed is the importance of providing adequate security so that eligible voters can attend the polls without violence or intimidation. Taliban leader Mullah Omar has already challenged the credibility of the coming elections, and the Taliban has a history of disrupting Afghan elections. Earlier today, the ranking member of the Kunduz province electoral commission was assassinated, although the assailants have yet to be identified.

More generally, while some members are encouraged by the progress they believe Afghan security forces have made, there continues to be widespread concern in the Council with the challenging security situation. There has been an increase in violence taking place not only in Taliban strongholds in the south and the east but throughout the country. Particularly alarming is the rising toll of the violence on civilians, especially in relation to women and children.

In this regard, some Council members may express their concern with the recent attacks on high-profile women. Parliament member Roh Gul Khairzad was wounded by armed assailants in Ghazni province in an attack on 7 August that claimed the life of her daughter and driver, while Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, also a member of parliament, was abducted on 13 August. (Kakar was later released in exchange for 11 Taliban prisoners.) On 15 September, Lieutenant Negara, the highest ranking female police officer in Helmand province, was shot in the neck, near her home, later succumbing to her wounds. Insurgents also assassinated her predecessor, Islam Bibi, in July.

In addition to these attacks, there is a broader sentiment among a number of Council members that it is important to secure and maintain the gains that have been made in women’s rights during the past decade. In light of this, some members may be critical of the fact that, according to the Secretary-General’s latest UNAMA report, “the number of women and girls prosecuted for moral crimes has risen despite the Supreme Court and Office of the Attorney-General having issued three directives stating that running away from home is not a crime.”

Some members may also refer to the need to continue to make progress in ensuring that Afghanistan and its international partners meet their commitments as a part of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework, agreed on 8 July 2012. (While donors have committed to enhance the effectiveness of their aid delivery, Afghanistan has promised to make progress in human rights, the rule of law, financial management and good governance.)

Other key challenges that may be raised tomorrow include efforts to combat the production and trafficking in drugs, the security transition from international to Afghan security forces, and the reconciliation process.

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