What's In Blue

Posted Mon 16 Jun 2014

Adoption of Resolution on 1988 Taliban Sanctions Regime

Tomorrow morning (17 June), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution making minor adjustments to the functioning of the 1988 Taliban sanctions regime. This adoption follows a review of the implementation of the sanctions regime, called for in resolution 2082 of 17 December 2012.

The first draft of the resolution was circulated by the penholder, the US, on 6 June. After two rounds of negotiations of all Council members and a series of bilateral exchanges, the draft resolution was put under silence procedure on 13 June (Friday). As no Council member broke the silence over the weekend, it went into blue earlier today.

No fundamental changes have been made to the sanctions regime and the draft does not depart significantly from resolution 2082, which modified the sanctions regime to allow for a number of exemptions to make it easier for listed individuals to travel to participate in meetings in support of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. However, language has been added to the draft in an effort to strengthen the regime. Many of these new elements reflect observations that have been raised by the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team established pursuant to resolution 1526 in its recent reports to the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee.

The draft expresses the determination of the Council to prevent kidnapping and hostage-taking by terrorist groups for political or financial gain, which is relevant to the Taliban given its increasing “reliance on abductions of wealthy businessmen for ransom” as one means of financing its operations, according to the most recent report of the Monitoring Team (S/2014/402). This language has been added amidst ongoing concerns in the Council about kidnapping for ransom, and indeed, the draft also recalls resolution 2133 of 27 January, which called on states “to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments or from political concessions.”

Another new element to the draft resolution is language deciding that states should take appropriate measures to prevent those associated with the Taliban getting access to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other unconventional weapons or materials that can be used to make such devices and weapons. The use of IEDs has been a signature tactic of the Taliban, with the Monitoring Team reporting in its 10 November 2013 report that IEDs were responsible for 80 percent of the casualties of Afghan security forces, while posing a significant threat to Afghan civilians as well (S/2013/656). The Monitoring Team’s report, which was released on 10 June, also indicated that the Taliban has gained access to more sophisticated IEDs since late 2013, and that in southern Afghanistan, remotely detonated explosives are being used with greater frequency.

An additional notable feature of the draft resolution is that it encourages states to make photographs and other relevant biometric data on listed individuals available to the Sanctions Committee and to INTERPOL. Such data is especially helpful for INTERPOL-UN Security Council Special Notices, which inform national law enforcement officials of the sanctions applicable to designated individuals and entities.

The draft also recognises the connection between Taliban finances and the illegal exploitation of natural resources, a suggestion made by the Monitoring Team in its 10 November 2013 report (S/2013/656). The connection between opium production and Taliban financing has long been recognised; however, there is growing awareness of the significant revenue stream that the Taliban is deriving from illegally exploiting natural resources, especially through illicit mining activities.

Finally, the draft requests the Secretary-General to make listed entries and a narrative summary of the reasons for their listing available in all six UN languages. (Currently, the list and the related narrative are only available in English.) Resolution 2082 had only highlighted the importance of this being done, without making a specific request of the Secretary-General.

The negotiations on the draft were not difficult, perhaps because there were no fundamental changes to the sanctions regime. However, compromises were made on some of the new language that was included in the final draft. Apparently at the request of China, the phrasing on the illegal exploitation of natural resources was slightly altered from the first draft to the final version. Unlike the first draft, the final version does not specifically list the natural resources that are illegally exploited (e.g.: timber, precious stones, and minerals). It also specifically mentions the connection between those associated with the Taliban and such exploitation, whereas the original draft does not mention the Taliban by name.

There was also a compromise made regarding the language on IEDs. Also at the request of China, the final draft specifically refers to efforts to prevent those associated with the Taliban, rather than listed individuals, from getting access to explosives. In the original version, there was also no specific reference to the Taliban in this particular paragraph.

Apparently, one of the elected members pushed to have language included requesting the Secretary-General to have listed entries and the narrative reasons for their listing published in all six UN languages. While it seems that there were some concerns about the financial cost of doing so, there were a number of members that supported this request, which was included in the final draft, perhaps in recognition that it is important to enhance international awareness of those that have been targeted by the sanctions regime.

As the Monitoring Team’s recent report demonstrates, the draft is being adopted at a time of flux for the Taliban insurgency. At the same time that the Taliban is garnering enormous profits from opium production and mining, there is also evidence that the Taliban has profited from extorting contractors that have been servicing International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan. As ISAF has been reducing its presence in the country, the revenues from such extortion have been decreasing, leading to intense infighting among some elements of the Taliban for dwindling resources. There is thus evidence of splintering in the Taliban, with several divisions forming, some of which express support for Al-Qaida affiliated organisations. As the report argues, this enhances uncertainty regarding the security environment.

It has been argued that the splitting of the 1267 Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee into two separate committees—the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Committee and the 1988 Taliban Committee—in June 2011 was done largely for political reasons (i.e. that separating the Taliban from the Al-Qaida lists could help promote reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban). However, the reconciliation process has met with considerable challenges to date. With few exceptions, signs that the Taliban leadership is committed to negotiate have not been encouraging. Many leading Taliban figures may be waiting until after 2014, believing that the Taliban can win a military victory once the bulk of international forces have left the country, but as the recent Monitoring Team report argues, growing Taliban revenues from the narcotics trade, extortion, illegal mining, and other avenues may be enriching key Taliban figures to the point where they do not have the inclination to negotiate.

While the 1988 Taliban sanctions regime focuses on curtailing the threat of the Taliban to the safety and security of Afghanistan, it should be noted that the current resolution is being adopted at a time at which the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban are engaged in significant conflict. The Pakistani Taliban demonstrated the extent of its reach with an 8 June attack on the international airport in Karachi that claimed the lives of at least 36 people, including 10 of the insurgents, but did not elicit a response from the Security Council. Pakistan recently launched a military campaign against insurgents in North Waziristan, a region near the border with Afghanistan, with 27 extremists and six Pakistani troops reportedly killed earlier today.

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