IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REPRESENTATIVE REPORTS CONTINUING, INTENSIFYING VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN

17 January 2006
SC/8610

IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REPRESENTATIVE REPORTS CONTINUING, INTENSIFYING VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN

17/01/2006
Security Council
SC/8610
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5347th Meeting (PM)

IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REPRESENTATIVE REPORTS

CONTINUING, INTENSIFYING VIOLENCE IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN

Says Security Remains at Heart of Efforts

By Government, International Community to Operate throughout Country

While the overall number of violent clashes and incidents throughout Afghanistan had dropped over the past two months, the south had witnessed a negative and deadly trend in the tactics used by anti-government elements, Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said in a briefing to the Security Council today.

He said that a vehicle-borne explosive device had detonated near a convoy of the Canadian provincial reconstruction team in a Kandahar suicide attack on 15 January, killing its political director, Glyn Berry, and injuring three Canadian soldiers, as well as Afghan civilians.  At the end of the same day, another suicide bomber had attacked in the Spin Boldak district, leaving a toll of 20 reported dead and 20 injured.  Hours before that, a roadside explosive device had been detonated in Kandahar city, killing three Afghan National Army soldiers, two civilians and injuring at least 10 others.  Attacks using improvised explosive devices had been carried out against international military forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in parts of the country where they had been rare, such as Mazar-i-Sharif on 25 November, Baghlan on 9 December, and Herat on 20 January.

Citing continuing and intensifying violence and threats against local officials, religious leaders and schools, particularly in the south and south-east of the country, he emphasized that the security dimension remained at the heart of joint efforts by the Government and the international community, both as a priority concern that must be addressed through military and non-military means, and as a limitation on the ability of the international community and the United Nations to operate in all parts of Afghanistan.

He said the planned transfer of operational authority in the south from Operation Enduring Freedom to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would continue in 2006.  The provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar, previously led by United States forces deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom, had been transferred to Canada in August 2005, and would eventually operate under ISAF command.  On 8 December, NATO Foreign Ministers had decided to expand ISAF by an additional 6,000 troops, which would raise the total from the current 9,200 to a little over 15,000.  Firm guarantees by individual NATO member States to contribute additional troops for that expansion, however, were yet to be secured.

The United States had announced on 20 December that 2,500 American forces would be withdrawn from Operation Enduring Freedom in March 2006, reducing the current level of 19,000 troops to 16,500, he said.  As it expanded to areas previously under Coalition command, it was imperative that ISAF be provided with the means necessary to retain its credibility, particularly in the face of the unusually high number of attacks carried out against international military forces.  That would require, in addition to a robust combat capability and coherence across national rules of engagement, a strong political will to stay the course.

Turning to the desire of the international community and the Afghan Government to agree on a new framework for international engagement beyond the completion of the Bonn process, he said consultations had been going on since September with a view to launching the Compact for Afghanistan in London on 31 January.  That document, now at the last drafting stage, was a comprehensive and strong blueprint for what would be, in the next five years, an intensive exercise in peacebuilding.  The Compact addressed in an integrated manner the major challenges confronting Afghanistan -- security, governance, human rights and the rule of law, development, and counter-narcotics as a major cross-cutting endeavour.

The Compact also emphasized the leadership that the Afghan State, strengthened by the democratic process that had unfolded in the past four years, could and must take, he continued.  In addition, it established some key principles aimed at maximizing the impact of the peacebuilding process, including sustainability, capacity-building, gender-sensitive approaches, accountability and the key role to be played by regional cooperation.  Further, the Compact established key benchmarks and timelines with a view to facilitating cooperation and follow-up, and also pacing popular expectation of what could be achieved in the coming years.  It sought to improve the delivery of assistance with detailed commitments to aid effectiveness.  Finally, it provided for the establishment of a coordination mechanism that recognized the leadership of the Afghan Government and the role that the United Nations continued to play.

Today’s meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m., when Council members adjourned to go into private session.

Briefing by Special Representative

JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, noted that almost four years to the day after the signing of the Bonn agreement, the political transition in Afghanistan had been completed with the inauguration on 19 December 2005 of the new Afghan National Assembly.  The inauguration had been the capstone in a process that had seen the installation of an interim and subsequently a transitional authority, the adoption of a new constitution, the holding of presidential elections, and, most recently, the parliamentary elections of September 2005.

He said that following the Assembly’s inauguration, and in a narrow vote, the Lower House had elected as its chairperson Yunus Qanooni, one of the architects of the Bonn agreement, a former presidential candidate and, until his assumption of his parliamentary role, a leading opposition figure.  The Upper House had elected as its chairperson Sebghatulla Mojaddedi, former President of Afghanistan, former Chair of the Constitutional Loya Jirga, and currently of the national reconciliation programme.

Both houses had made progress in the discussion of the rules of procedure, he said.  One of those rules that was yet to be finalized related to the process by which the Parliament would exercise its constitutional role of endorsing the members of Cabinet.  At the request of the President, the review of Cabinet appointments would take place after the London Conference at the end of January, as he had indicated that many of his Cabinet members were involved in preparing the Afghanistan Compact, the important conference on the future agenda of the country’s peace process, to be launched in London in two weeks’ time.

He said the Government had decided on the establishment of a Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to facilitate the interaction between the Cabinet and the National Assembly.  While representatives from the Assembly would not be part of the Afghan delegation to the London Conference, the Chairperson of the Lower House had expressed an interest in working with the Government and the international community to examine the post-Bonn agenda and identify ways in which the benchmarks could be met.

Reporting on other political developments, he said that on 12 December the Cabinet had approved the National Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice after several months of consultations.  The Plan acknowledged the plight of the millions of victims of the conflict and sought to address their needs through reparation, truth-seeking, the strengthening of justice institutions and national reconciliation.  While the Plan’s implementation was bound to face objections from some groups, a conference on transitional justice held in Kabul in December had suggested that there was broad support for truth-finding, vetting of government officials, and justice as important components of the peace process.

Building on the peace disarmament programme completed last July, he said, a strategy for the disbandment of illegal armed groups had now been agreed by national and international partners.  Those groups numbered in the hundreds and were linked to the drug trade, factions, organized crime and were major contributors, in the countryside, to the weakness of the Afghan State.  Learning the lessons from the disarmament programme, the strategy clarified that success would not be defined by the collection of weapons alone, but the actual disbandment of illegal armed groups and advances in citizens’ security, good governance and the rule of law.

Regarding security, he reported that while the overall number of violent clashes and incidents countrywide had dropped over the past two months in keeping with seasonal patterns, the south had witnessed a negative trend in the tactics used by anti-government elements, with deadly effect.  In a suicide attack on

15 January, a vehicle-borne explosive device had detonated near a convoy of the Canadian provincial reconstruction team, in Kandahar, killing its political director, Glyn Berry, and injuring three Canadian soldiers, as well as Afghan civilians.  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reiterated the Secretary-General’s tribute to Mr. Berry, a senior member of the Canadian Foreign Service and former Vice-Chair of the General Assembly Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.

At the end of the same day, Kandahar province had been hit by another suicide bomber in the Spin Boldak district, leaving a toll of 20 reported dead and 20 injured, he said.  Hours before that, a roadside explosive device had been detonated in Kandahar city, killing three Afghan National Army soldiers, two civilians, and injuring at least 10 others.  Of a total 19 suicide attacks over the past 12 months, 13 had occurred in the last two months -- three in November, six in December, and four in January.  In another development, attacks using improvised explosive devices had been carried out against international military forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in parts of the country where they had been rare, such as Mazar-i-Sharif on 25 November, Baghlan on 9 December, and Herat on 20 January.

Furthermore, he said, violence and threats against local officials, religious leaders and schools continued and intensified, particularly in the south and south-east of the country.  The security dimension, therefore, remained at the heart of joint efforts by the Government and the international community, both as a priority concern that must be addressed through military and non-military means, and as a limitation on the ability of the international community and the United Nations to operate in all parts of the country.

The planned transfer of operational authority in the South from Operation Enduring Freedom to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would continue in 2006, he continued.  The provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar, previously led by United States forces deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom, was transferred to Canada in August 2005, and would eventually operate under ISAF command.

On 8 December, NATO Foreign Ministers decided to expand the ISAF by an additional 6,000 troops, which would bring the total from the current 9,200 to a little over 15,000.  Firm guarantees of individual NATO member States to contribute additional troops for that expansion, however, were yet to be secured.  The United States had announced on 20 December that 2,500 American forces would be withdrawn in March 2006 from Operation Enduring Freedom, bringing the current level of 19,000 troops down to 16,500.

As it expanded to areas previously under Coalition command, it was imperative that ISAF be provided with the means necessary for its credibility, particularly in the face of the unusually high number of attacks carried out against international military forces.  That would require, in addition to a robust combat capability and coherence across national rules of engagement, a strong political will to stay the course.

“The unhappy news I had to report on the security front should be taken for what they are -- an indication that while great gains have been made in the past four years in many areas, the challenges are still considerable and the job is far from done”, he said.  Therefore, mobilizing the resources of the newly established Afghan institutions and those of the international community remained key to the consolidation of peace and stability in Afghanistan.  In that respect, in August 2005, the Security Council welcomed the desire of the international community and the Afghan Government to agree on a new framework for international engagement beyond the completion of the Bonn process, and took note of the intention of the Secretary-General to hold consultations with the Government and all concerned international actors on a post-electoral agenda.

Those consultations had been going on since September with a very wide range of actors, both Afghan and international, and he looked forward to the outcome of those consultations -- the Compact for Afghanistan -- being launched in London on 31 January.  The document that was now at the last drafting stage was, he believed, a comprehensive and strong blueprint for what would be, in the next five years, an intensive exercise in peacebuilding.  The Compact addressed in an integrated manner the major challenges that confronted Afghanistan:  security; governance, human rights and the rule of law; development; and counter-narcotics as a major cross-cutting endeavour.

The Compact, he continued, also emphasized the leadership that the Afghan State, strengthened by the democratic process that had unfolded in the past four years, could and must take.  In addition, it established some key principles aimed at maximizing the impact of the peacebuilding process, including sustainability, capacity-building, gender-sensitive approaches, accountability and the key role to be played by regional cooperation.  Further, the Compact established key benchmarks and timelines with a view to facilitating cooperation and follow-up, and also pacing popular expectation of what could be achieved in the coming years.  It sought to improve the delivery of assistance with detailed commitments to aid effectiveness.  Finally, it provided for the establishment of a coordination mechanism that recognized the leadership of the Afghan Government and the role the United Nations continued to play.

Coming as they did in the wake of the great achievement that was the completion of the Bonn agenda, the latest tragic news from Kandahar had served as a sad reminder of the magnitude of the outstanding tasks in the consolidation of peace in Afghanistan, he stated.  But they should not distract the international community from one of the main facts of the Bonn process, namely that, in the past four years, Afghans had -- as the draft Compact pointed out -- “successfully defied violent extremism and hardship to lay the foundations for a democratic, peaceful, pluralistic and prosperous State”.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.