The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

Mission Mandate

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 19 March 2013, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2096 (2013) renewing UNAMA’s mandate until March 2014.


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.   

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) with support from 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.

President Obama’s 2011 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 support of the April 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. With the U.S. to drawdown the U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014, the United Nations will continue its efforts to support the government and promote stability in the region. The elections on April 5, 2014, will mark the first transfer of power in Afghanistan from one elected president to another. Afghanistan’s place in the region will be vital to long-term stability and sustainability as the presence of the winder international community draws down.

  • Supporting the Election Process. Preparations for the upcoming elections remain on track for the scheduled polling date of April 5, 2014. In January, President Hamid Karzai convened a meeting of all 11 presidential candidates at which he stressed the need for transparent elections and emphasized his commitment to non-interference by the Government in this process. To promote inclusiveness of the electoral process, the United Nations in Afghanistan made “political participation is everyone’s right: women as voters and candidates” the theme of its annual open day on issues surrounding women, peace and security. Since February 14, 2014, over 3.5 million voter cards have been distributed, 35 percent of which were for women. The UN does not have a formal role in the election process, but they are supporting the authorities and election offices by advising them and providing facilities and technical help by urging the Afghan authorities ensure that the results of the voting process are credible and secure. The UNAMA released a statement that says that despite some security problems, the authorities are creating conditions that will allow the people to exercise the right to vote. It is predicted at 90% of the voting centers will remain open for the public to vote.

  • Supports Afghan National Police (ANP).The Afghan local police security initiative continues to increase, with over 27,000 personnel. 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. However, nine percent of security incidents in 2013 were directed against 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. They 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 U.S. and the UN recognize the importance of women’s rights and work to promote women in the political process in Afghanistan. As part of these efforts, in 2013, UNAMA issued a report on the implementation of the law to eliminate violence against women. In December 2013, The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women released a report of testimonies of Afghan women in order to provide a voice to those denied rights, in order to contribute to the reconciliation process. This report indicated an increase of 28% of violence against women since 2011. Unfortunately, the report also cited that the number of criminal indictments filed by prosecutors in cases of violence against women has decreased.

  • Promote Community Dialogue. As of December 31st, 2013, the joint secretariat of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme reported that a total of 7,796 individuals had joined UNAMA Programme, which facilitates local dialogue to mitigate inter-ethnic and inter-tribal tensions and to build confidence among communities.

  • Disarms and demobilizes. Despite the increase in 2013 of incidents involving mines and explosive remnants of war, mine action partners supported by the UN cleared 28 battlefields and 214 minefields. UNAMA has facilitated the removal of more than 40,000 heavy and light weapons, clearing 43% of the known hazardous landmine 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 Vaccines.  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.  Vaccination campaigns in an effort towards the elimination of polio in Afghanistan. In 2013, there were only 14 reported cases. Since December, more than 2.7 million children have been vaccinated.

Ongoing Challenges

  • AfghanistanContinued Instability. Progress towards the establishment of a formal peace process with the armed opposition remained limited. The security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile. The United Nations recorded 20,093 security incidents in Afghanistan in 2013. Tactically, armed clashes, and improvised explosive devices represented 75 per cent of total incidents in 2013. Armed oppositions also used suicide bombing as a tactic in 2013, with 107 such incidents last year. 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 January 17, 2014 four United Nations staff in Afghanistan and 17 civilians were killed in an attack by the Taliban. In 2013, conflict-related violence killed 2,959 civilians and injured 5,656. Anti-government elements were responsible for 2,311 civilian deaths and 4,063 injuries. Between November 1st and January 31st, 104 children were killed and 254 injured as a result of the increased violence.

  • Humanitarian Needs. Due to the ongoing instability in Afghanistan, in 2013, 124,000 persons were newly displaced. This brought the total of people internally displaced in Afghanistan to more than 630,000. The Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan estimates that 5.4 million people will require access to health services this year.
  • 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 April 2013


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