The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
The Bonn Agreement in December 2001 led to the creation of the current Afghan state and its institutions. As a result of the agreement, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was established in March 2002 by UN Security Council Resolution 1401. UNAMA, a special political mission administered by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, coordinates the work of 23 UN agencies in Afghanistan.
This Mission’s mandate includes:
• Aiding reconstruction;
• Fighting corruption;
• Monitoring and coordinating efforts to protect citizens and their human rights, especially those of women and children;
• Providing humanitarian and development assistance;
• Advising and assisting the government with security, governance, and regional cooperation.
On 22 March 2012, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2041 (2012) renewing UNAMA’s mandate until March 2013.
From the mid-1990s until 2001, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan and provided a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden and other members of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., the international community responded to the threats posed by terrorists in Afghanistan.
In October 2001, the U.S. and its allies launched a bombing offensive against the Taliban. Within weeks, U.S.-led troops, with the assistance of Afghan forces such as the Northern Alliance, forced the Taliban from power. In December 2001, at the Bohn Conference, Afghan leaders began reconstructing their nation’s government, known as the Afghan Transitional Authority. The conference led to discussions on sending a UN force to stabilize and support this transition; At the request of the Afghani Government , the Security Council voted to create the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in March 2002.
The Bohn Conference also led to the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), originally mandated by the Security Council. This force coordinated and planned forces on the ground. In 2003, NATO took control of the force, ending the rotation of control for six month periods. Originally mandated to protect Kabul in October 2003, the UN expanded the mandate to provide security for the whole nation.
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On October 9, 2004, Afghanistan held its first national democratic presidential election, declaring Hamid Karzai President of Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai was re-elected for another 5-year term in 2009 during a second democratic presidential election coordinated by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the UN.
In January 2004 a new constitution was adopted and by October , Afghanistan held its first national democratic presidential election, resulting in the selection of Hamid Karzai as the President of Afghanistan. Karzai was re-elected for another 5-year term in 2009 during a second democratic presidential election coordinated by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the UN.The Kabul Conference in July 2010 signaled a new phase in the partnership between the international community and the Afghan Government. The Kabul Process is a recommitment to a more secure, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan, under the leadership and sovereignty of the Afghan government. With the support of the United Nations, the Kabul Process is committed to achieving Afghanistan's national priorities, many of which fall in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The agenda includes priorities such as:
- Promoting good governance, rule of law, and human rights;
- Focusing on economic growth and job creation for the Afghan people;
- Supporting the Afghan peace, reconciliation, and reintegration process;
- ;Committing to train, equip, and finance the Afghan National Security Forces;
- Encouraging regional cooperation and stability; and
- Improving the National Drug Control Strategy.
Following President Obama’s announcement of U.S plans for military drawdown in Afghanistan in June 2011 and withdraw in 2014, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement, citing that the drawdown would allow Afghan leadership to take on more responsibility in the country.As the Afghan government begins to take more ownership of their national agenda, the UN continues to play an active role in supporting good governance practices and human rights, specifically with a mind for 2014 elections. The UN supports an electoral system that will allow free and fair voting practices leading to legitimate results.
How This Affects American Interests
Supports a peaceful transition. As the U.S. continues to drawdown troops and the Afghan government begins taking ownership of security and governing forces, the United Nations continues to monitor the process to ensure accountability in institutions and protection of civilians. It is imperative that the U.S. coordinate its efforts with the UN before it withdraws in order to develop a peaceful and cohesive transition. The U.S. and UN have worked together to strengthen its institutional capacity and promote human rights. These efforts have resulted in 30% fewer security incidents occurred during May and July 31 2012 then in the equivalent period last year. The Mission advocates for the reform of the justice system, addressing problems such as child protection and overcrowding. Legislation is currently being considered on reforming the Criminal Procedure code. The mission also helps convene dialogues between government officials and UN agencies and organize donors in order to achieve the nation’s priorities.
Supports Counter-Narcotics Efforts. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) supports national and regional approaches to eliminate the drug trade. UNODC joined with the Ministry of Counter Narcotics to launch a country program with an emphasis on developing a counter-narcotic monitoring framework across government agencies. These efforts include clearing 2,458 hectares of poppy fields in Kandahar this year. The Counter-Narcotics Regional Program for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries have met and UNODC agreed that increased support should be given to cross-regional operations. A Counter-Narcotics Monitoring Mechanism was launched in June to identify counter-narcotics activities in current national priority programs.
UNODC and the UN Development Program (UNDP) also works to provide alternate livelihood opportunities to those ensnared in the illicit selling and growing of opium. This program helps break family and community ties with the drug trade, facilitates steering committees to increase the availability of alternative revenue sources, and coordinates the program of alternate livelihoods in every level of government, private sector, and community.
Supports Afghan National Police (ANP). The UN Mission works to fortify the Afghan National Police (ANP) and their connection with the criminal justice system as an important element for the security and stability of Afghanistan. This work provides a backbone for the United States’ goal of developing strong, sustainable institutions that are capable of defending against insurgents and extremists. The targeted growth of security personnel for the end of 2012 is ahead of schedule with an estimated 149,000 police and 185,000 army personnel in the nation at the end of July. In order to improve the efficacy of the force, UNESCO developed a program in June 2011 to provide literacy training for 3,000 members of the police force, a step towards lowering the 70% illiteracy rate among the ANP. Additionally with support from UNAMA, the Ministry of the Interior works with civil society groups to develop programs aimed at strategy and curriculum for the training of officers. The Ministry and UNAMA have also supported vetting mechanisms to limit the re-emergence of ethnically or politically biased local forces and to build trust between civilians and their security forces. The Ministry and mission furthers these efforts to strengthen community ties, by launching plans to increase the connection between civil society and the police, partially through community-based policing initiatives and through increasing the number of female police officers. A UNDP survey released in February 2012, indicated that public perception of the police in Afghanistan has improved over the past three years, with 81% of Afghans expressing personal respect for the country’s law enforcement rising, an eight-point increase since last year. The survey polled 7,278 Afghans across all 34 provinces and also revealed that 53% of respondents believe it was beneficial to their communities to have female police, an eight per cent increase from last year.
Addresses sexual and gender-based violence. Both the UN and U.S. recognize the necessity of enforcing women’s rights to develop a thriving, sustainable society in Afghanistan. The mission consults with the Women’s Commission of Afghanistan’s lower house of government, the Wolesi Jirga, and civil society groups on the implementation of the country’s Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law, enacted in 2009 to criminalize child marriage, forced marriage, and acts of violence against women. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, with support from UNAMA, has focused its efforts on establishing central and local level commissions on this issue. In a parallel effort to empower women, the mission helps facilitate a dialogue at the national level to strength the position of women, specifically in relation to the nation’s commitment to the principles of Security Council Resolution 1325, which specifies the impact of war on women and the role women should play in conflict management and peacebuilding. In July the UN facilitated the launch and first meeting of N-Peace, a platform to advocate for the leadership of women in peace building. Thirty-five women met to discuss the peace process and priorities.
Supports National Electoral Processes. As preparations for the 2014 elections take stage in Afghanistan, UNAMA and UNDP work to strengthen the legal electoral framework. The first post-Taliban election in which Karzai has said he will not run, this election represents an opportunity to strengthen international security, by maturing Afghanistan’s democratic institutions and weaken anti-government forces. In particular, UNDP’s program, Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow II (ELECT II) promotes the work of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) through capacity building and providing a sustainable system of voter registration. Additionally, UN Special Representative, Jan Kubis, has engaged Afghani leaders in an effort to ensure a fair and transparent election. Since 2004, UNAMA and UNDP have supported free, fair, and inclusive elections in Afghanistan. The first ELECT program worked to strengthen the capacity of Afghan electoral authorities As a result, during Afghanistan’s 2010 parliamentary elections, 400,000 new voters, many of whom were women, were registered.
Encourages regional cooperation. UNAMA encourages multilateral cooperation for a more secure and cohesive region. A politically engaged and empowered region allows the United States to develop a framework to minimize extremists’ capabilities. UNAMA facilitates regional meetings to strengthen trust and coordinate priorities. A meeting between US, Afghani, and Pakistani officials is scheduled to be held between Permanent Missions at the UN. A second meeting of senior officials from Afghanistan and other nations in the region was hosted in Turkmenistan on April 18 during which confidence-building measures were discussed. In March at a Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, participants prioritized regional needs and designed 17 projects focusing on those priorities. UNAMA also facilitates meetings among governors and religious and tribe leaders,
Disarms and demobilizes. UNAMA has facilitated the removal of more than 40,000 heavy and light weapons, clearing 43 percent of the known hazardous landmines areas, disbanding 312 illegal armed groups, and confiscating 5,700 weapons. UNDP provides consultation and technical assistance to the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP). APRP encourages insurgents to reintegrate into their community through a confidence-building process that allows former insurgents to voice their grievances. Currently, the program has an estimated 5,025 former insurgents enrolled, 10% of which work for the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) on demining efforts. In addition, UNAMA’s presence has facilitated a 49%decrease in night raids of villages.
Provides humanitarian aid. The UN works to deliver humanitarian aid the Afghan people. U.S. priorities are aided by these UN efforts to stabilize the humanitarian crisis which in turn can affect larger political crises. United Nations World Food Program (WFP), Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition launched a project in September to combat hunger and malnutrition. This initiative targets 15 million Afghans, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable groups including young children and women of reproductive age. While statistics still show too many Afghans lacking proper food, health care, and education, progress has been made since 2003; 57% of the population have access to improved drinking water; 74% of women who gave birth in towns received help from health personnel. The Minister of Public Health in Afghanistan has dedicated himself to continuing this progress by signing the Secretary-General’s initiative Every Woman Every Child, to end preventable child death, as well as developing a nutrition framework with support from the UN and the World Bank.
In light of a number of natural disasters, Afghanistan has also received funds through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a branch of Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This money is used to deliver basic necessities to people in crises.
Rebuilds infrastructure. Since 2003, UNAMA has supported the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) and the Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) in the construction and rehabilitation of over 10,000 km of roads, created more than 13 million labor days primarily for rural impoverished groups, and has provided tangible benefits to the rural population in the form of wages and improved infrastructure in all 34 provinces in Afghanistan. Additionally, with the help of the UN, the Afghan government has been successful in constructing 179 district government offices.
Insecurity and Instability. Insurgents continue to use terror and intimidation tactics, particularly to target national leaders and security forces, with 70% of attacks aimed at the Afghan National Police. This tactic seriously threatens the stability of the country and region. The mission also recorded a concerning trend of uniformed personnel killing their colleagues. In Helmand in early August, six Marines in two different attacks were killed by Afghani security forces, in another attack in late August 3 Australian soldiers were killed. Threats have been issued against national staff in a number of provinces as well. This trend undermines the trust that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) develop with their Afghani security counterparts. There are fears that the Taliban has been able to infiltrate certain forces and sabotage security efforts. The planned withdrawal of 30,000 U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 2012 has also increased concern about the security situation moving forward.
The country has experienced further instability with Tajik extremist groups using Afghanistan as a base from which they can target their own government. The Afghan government has raised concerns over extremists taking advantage of the nation’s instability and hampering the ability of Afghans to move in the Badakhshan region. UNAMA has supported dialogues between Afghan and Tajik provincial offices.
Continued Conflict. While overall casualties decreased in 2012, insurgent attacks targeting civilians have increased. Afghan government and religious leaders have appealed to the Taliban to stop attacking areas with civilians, but atrocities have continued. On August 14, the deadliest day in 2012, over 200 civilians were killed or injured in multiple attacks throughout the country. Targeting leaders has also increased by 88% from May 1 to July 31 compared to the same period last year, leaving 231 people dead and 139 injured.
Attacks using improvised explosive devices (IED) have increased by 6% compared to last year, resulting in a total of 417 deaths between February and April. Additionally, improper vetting of security forces has led to a number of criminal complaints against the ANP, including extrajudicial killing, torture, discrimination, and limiting freedoms; In June, an officer was accused of raping an 18-year-old woman multiple times. With an ever expanding force it is imperative to properly investigate new officers in order to avoid similar situations. Trust between civilans and security forces is crucial for the development of a robust civil society with effective institutions.
Additionally, Women and girls continue to face unjust abuse due to traditional practices. In July, an honor killing of a 22-year-old woman accused of adultery was filmed. UNAMA advocates for and supports shelters for vulnerable women and girls.
Corruption. Reported incidents of corruption in the Afghan Government have destabilized the internal workings of the government and damaged civilian’s trust in the government. Two ministers, Abdul Rahim Wardak, the minister of defense, and Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, the minister of the interior, were removed for corruption and incompetence. Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan finance minister, has also come under fire for financial gains he made during his time as a public servant. While none of these cases of corruption have been confirmed, they all damage the legitimacy of a government still trying to establish itself.
- Humanitarian Needs. While 5.7 million Afghan refugees have returned to their nation since 2002, 3 million registered refugees still reside in neighboring countries, an estimated 1 million in Iran and 2 million in Pakistan. These refugees may be forced back home sooner than expected as Pakistan declared at the end of July that they were planning on revoking refugee status for the Afghan refugees, nearly 3 million (about 2 million registered and an estimated 1 million unregistered). Conflict has also been responsible for the 3,099 casualties 408,000 IDPs across the nation; 87,000 were newly displaced at the beginning of 2012. The UN and a number of Afghan Ministries is responding with a voluntary repatriation and reintegration program
Harsh weather conditions including a bitter winter and flash floods left an estimated 300 casualties, 110,000 displaced people, and 12,500 destroyed homes. Between June 1 and July 31 alone, the UN recorded 58 natural disasters, affecting 31,783 and leaving 116 dead and 2,046 homes destroyed. Additionally, farmers are still feeling the impact from a slow-onset drought in 2011. These weather conditions have had a devastating effect on infrastructure and economic activity. In a recent visit to Afghanistan by Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, emphasized there was a lack of resources to respond to the extreme humanitarian need.
The opium drug trade. Afghanistan remains by far the largest source of illicit opium and heroin, with an estimated 90% of the world’s opium trade and an estimated 74% of the world’s heroin trade originating in Afghanistan. The drug trade continues to be the primary source of income for the Taliban and the “gate-farm” value of opium has increased about 133% since 2010. Civilians have also faced increased addiction due to the prevalence of drugs in the country; in 2003 about 20,000 people in Kandahar were addicted to illegal drugs, currently about 100,000 people are reported addicts.
*Update October 2012