What's In Blue

Posted Mon 16 Dec 2019

Afghanistan: Vote on Sanctions Resolution and Briefing and Consultations

Today (16 December), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the Afghanistan sanctions regime and the mandate of the Monitoring Team supporting the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee. Following the adoption, the Council is scheduled to hold the quarterly meeting on Afghanistan, previewed in our December Monthly Forecast. The expected briefers in the open session are Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and Aisha Khurram, Afghanistan’s current Youth Representative to the UN. Consultations are scheduled to follow.

Resolution Negotiations

The first draft of the resolution was circulated on 10 December by the US, the penholder on Afghanistan sanctions. The first reading took place on 11 December and the first round of negotiations was held on 12 December. Following comments on the text submitted by members, a second draft was put under silence until Friday 3 pm, and passed.

It appears that the negotiations were not difficult. The short resolution (two pages and an annex describing the responsibilities of the Monitoring Team) renews the measures as set out in the previous resolution 2255 of 21 December 2015 (assets freeze, travel ban on designated individuals and entities and an arms embargo) and the mandate of the Monitoring Team for twelve months. It seems that a majority of Council members would have preferred a 24-month renewal but agreed to twelve months.

Briefing and Consultations

Recent developments on the political front may be discussed during today’s briefing and consultations. In this connection, there could be discussion of international efforts in recent months to engage diplomatically with the Taliban. On 2 September, following the ninth round of negotiations with the Taliban, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, announced that the US and the Taliban had reached an agreement “in principle”. In exchange for a timeline for US and NATO troop withdrawals, the talks were 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 were also goals of the talks. In seeking the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have insisted on talking directly with the US government, rather than with the Afghan government, whose legitimacy they do not recognise. On 7 September, US President Donald Trump suddenly announced that he had cancelled the talks, as well as invitations to Camp David for Taliban leaders and Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. While the talks resumed last week following confidence-building measures that included the release of hostages and detainees, Khalilzad announced “a brief pause” after a Taliban attack against a US base in Bagram on 11 December.

Another issue that may be raised today is how the presidential elections in Afghanistan will affect the political situation in the country. Presidential elections took place on 28 September, with initial results still outstanding. According to preliminary estimates, a quarter of registered voters went to the polls, the lowest turnout in any election in the country. The latest Secretary-General’s report states that “political reactions and manoeuvring regarding biometric voter verification remained at the centre of the post-electoral controversy.”

The rising number of civilian casualties is also likely to be a topic of discussion during the meeting. UNAMA’s 17 October quarterly report on protection of civilians in armed conflict documents the highest number of civilian casualties within a single quarter since UNAMA started systematically documenting civilian casualties in 2009. UNAMA reports 4,313 civilian casualties, including 174 deaths and 3,139 injured, between 1 July and 30 September, noting that this coincided with the progression of US-Taliban talks. UNAMA attributes the increase in casualties to a rise in attacks involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs), primarily conducted by the Taliban. There may be references to reports of civilian deaths during US airstrikes in Nangarhar on 19 September and in Helmand on 22 September. The Helmand airstrikes were carried out in support of a ground operation by US and Afghan forces, according to UNAMA. In addition, members may express concern with the high number of child casualties in the conflict, with over 2,400 children killed or wounded between January and September.

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