Debate on Afghanistan
Tomorrow morning (18 December), the Council is expected to hold its quarterly debate on the situation in Afghanistan. Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and Yuri Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, are expected to brief.
Issues related to the political, economic, security, and human rights situation in the country will likely be raised during the debate. In his briefing, Haysom—and some Council members—may commend the efforts by presidential contenders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah and their ability to reach a compromise to end the electoral impasse that plagued the country for several months. (Ghani was sworn in as President on 29 September, while Abdullah assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer in the new government.) At the same time, members of the Council may also underscore the need for the two leaders to form a mutually acceptable cabinet to run the government, and may seek Haysom’s assessment of the efforts that Ghani and Abdullah have made to do so.
Another key recurring issue that Haysom will likely address and that may feature in the interventions of Council members is the challenging security situation, especially given the heavy impact that the conflict continues to take on the civilian population. The recent Secretary-General’s report (S/2014/876) on UNAMA noted that 2014 has been “one of the more violent [years] since 2001” in Afghanistan. In the last month alone, the Taliban has carried out a number of high profile attacks across the country, including a 23 November suicide bombing at a volleyball tournament in Paktika province that killed over 50 civilians and wounded another 60, and the assassination of 12 people removing land mines in Helmand Province on 13 December, among other incidents. Having just negotiated a press statement on the horrific 16 December attack by the Pakistan Taliban on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, which claimed the lives of 148 people, 132 of them children, some Council members may raise this issue in relation to activities of the Taliban. (General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, traveled to Kabul earlier today to request Afghanistan’s support in finding those that masterminded the attack, as it has been reported that Pakistan believes that the assault was planned from Afghanistan.)
A number of Council members continue to be appalled by the deadly impact of the conflict on civilians. These concerns take on heightened relevance given the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the full assumption by Afghan National Security Forces of responsibility for their country’s security. There is widespread recognition in the Council of the importance of sustained international engagement in supporting Afghanistan in its efforts to maintain security and stability. In light of this sentiment, some Council members may welcome Afghanistan’s decision to sign security agreements with the US and NATO on 30 September. Members may also in this context refer to Council’s decision in resolution 2189, adopted on 12 December, to welcome “the agreement between NATO and Afghanistan to establish the post-2014 non-combat Resolute Support Mission, which will train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.”
Women’s rights in Afghanistan have long been a concern for several Council members, and will likely be raised in a number of interventions tomorrow. These members are keen to ensure that the gains that have been made on women’s issues since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001 are consolidated and continue to expand. Rashida Manjoo, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, was in Afghanistan from 4 to 12 November, and argued during the trip that “accountability for all crimes committed against women and girls, the empowerment of women, and the transformation of society, need to remain a focus for the government of Afghanistan, independent State institutions, civil society organisations and also the international community.”
Some members will likely be interested in any information on progress made on implementing the road map endorsed by the Afghan government in August 2014 towards compliance of the action plan signed by the UN and the Afghan government to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in Afghan National Security Forces signed in 2011.
Efforts to promote reconciliation with the Taliban might also be discussed at the meeting. On 31 October, Ghani urged the Taliban to participate in inter-Afghan dialogue. However, signs over the past several months have been discouraging on this front. In addition to their violent attacks, the Taliban have declined to engage in reconciliation efforts. “In a statement issued on 22 September, the Taliban rejected the formation of the National Unity Government and called for a continuation of the conflict until ‘the end of foreign occupation,’” as noted in the recent Secretary-General’s report.
Fedotov will likely discuss the threat of drug production and trafficking to the stability of Afghanistan and the region, as well as outline national and international initiatives that are currently underway to combat this threat. He may also brief members on his trip to Kabul on 8 November, where he met with Ghani and Abdullah, during which he highlighted the commitment of the UN to cooperate with Afghanistan to fight drug production, corruption and organised crime.
Some Council members, most notably France and Russia, have been particularly vocal about the threat posed by drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan, in large part because they believe that the illicit funds from narcotics fuel violent extremism. These concerns take on heightened significance at the present time, considering projections that this year’s opium production could be up by 17 percent in comparison to 2013.
Regarding the nexus between the ongoing political and socio-economic challenges and international development assistance for Afghanistan, there may be support expressed by some Council members at tomorrow’s meeting for the 4 December London Conference on Afghanistan, which was co-hosted by the UK and Afghanistan, and included the participation of 59 states, in addition to international organisations and members of Afghan civil society. At the conference, Afghanistan and its international partners recommitted to the Tokyo mutual accountability framework of 2012. Through this framework, Afghanistan’s international partners promised to maintain significant financial support for Afghanistan through 2017 in exchange for Afghanistan’s ongoing efforts to make progress in meeting commitments to good governance, the rule of law, human rights and effective financial management. In this sense, concerns may be raised by some members about the challenging economic situation facing Afghanistan, and as such, they may emphasise the importance of the government’s effort to fight corruption, improve tax collection and enhance financial management.