What's In Blue

Posted Mon 30 Aug 2021

Afghanistan: Vote on Resolution on Recent Developments*

This afternoon (30 August), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution regarding recent developments in Afghanistan. France, the UK and the US proposed the resolution and circulated a first draft to the Council on 27 August. Council members exchanged written comments on 28 August, and a draft of the resolution was then placed under silence until yesterday (29 August) morning. Silence was broken by China and Russia. Following further negotiations among the permanent members of the Council, an amended draft was put in blue by the US last night (29 August).

The negotiations on the draft text in blue were informed by recent momentous events in Afghanistan. The Taliban entered Kabul and took power on 15 August, following a military offensive that swiftly gained momentum in the aftermath of the US government’s announcement that it would begin withdrawing troops on 1 May. Reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, particularly against women and girls, were reported during the Taliban’s offensive. In the second half of August, tens of thousands of Afghan nationals and foreign citizens have been evacuated from the country through Kabul airport, and the US has declared that it will finalise its evacuation from Afghanistan by 31 August. On 26 August, two suicide bombers affiliated with the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (IS-KP) detonated explosives outside Kabul airport, killing 170 people, including scores of Afghan civilians and 13 US soldiers, and wounding at least 200 others.

The draft resolution in blue condemns the 26 August attack near Kabul airport and demands that Afghan territory not be used to attack any country or shelter terrorists. It asks for strengthened efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and calls on all parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian actors. In relation to the evacuations from Afghanistan, it notes the Taliban’s 27 August statement in which it committed to allowing Afghans to travel abroad via any border crossing, including at Kabul airport. The draft references the dangerous security situation around Kabul airport and expresses concern regarding intelligence which indicates further terrorist attacks may take place nearby. It also calls on relevant parties to work with international partners to strengthen security near Kabul airport and requests that every effort be made to allow for its rapid and secure reopening. The draft in blue further underlines that all parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, reaffirms the importance of upholding human rights, and calls on the parties to seek a negotiated political settlement.

China and Russia broke silence yesterday (29 August) on an earlier iteration of the text and expressed concerns that the draft focused too closely on the Taliban. It seems that these concerns were addressed by removing language that expressed the Council’s intent to monitor the Taliban’s actions, particularly their respect for human rights. A reference to the Taliban’s condemnation of the 26 August attack near Kabul airport was added to the draft. It appears that language which noted that the Taliban will be held accountable for their commitments regarding Afghans travelling abroad and language that called on the Taliban to refrain from further activities that threaten the peace, stability, and security of Afghanistan was also not retained in the draft resolution in blue.

An operative paragraph regarding humanitarian assistance apparently originally demanded that the Taliban allow unhindered access. However, the reference to the Taliban was removed from the draft in blue, which instead calls on “all parties” to do so. Text which specifically demanded that neither the Taliban nor any other Afghan group support terrorists was not retained and was replaced with language which notes the Taliban’s “relevant commitments” and reiterates the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan, including the individuals and entities designated pursuant to resolution 1267 of October 1999. It seems that Russia also sought to add text which emphasised that all parties should contribute to the security situation at the airport. Language to this effect was ultimately included in the draft in blue.

On 29 August, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France, Germany, and the UK were working on a proposal that would establish a safe zone in Kabul and that a resolution to this effect would be tabled at a meeting today (30 August). According to media reports, the proposed safe zone would allow safe passage for those trying to leave Afghanistan. The draft in blue does not explicitly refer to such a safe zone and, at the time of writing, it is unclear whether a further resolution establishing a safe zone will be proposed.

*Post-script: On 30 August, the Council adopted resolution 2593. There were 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia). Russia said in its explanation of vote that, among other reasons, it abstained because the resolution did not include language that referred to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh) and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. In addition, Russia lamented that its proposals to include language regarding both the harmful effects that freezing assets can have on the humanitarian situation, and the need to provide humanitarian assistance in accordance with the guiding principles in General Assembly resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991, were not included in the resolution’s text.

In its explanation of vote, China said that it abstained because it had doubts about the urgency and necessity of the resolution and because its proposed amendments were not fully implemented into the final text. China also called on the international community to engage with and provide guidance to the Taliban, and criticised other countries for imposing unilateral sanctions on Afghan nationals and freezing Afghan assets. China further noted that it attaches great importance to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and said that the hasty withdrawal of foreign troops has created more opportunities for terrorism.