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Role of United Nations In Pursuit of Peace In Afghanistan

Role of UN in building peace in Afghanistan can be traced back to 1980s when an emergency session of UN Security Council, held between 10 and 14 January 1980 as an aftermath of USSRs Afghanistan invasion, passed the resolution ES-6/1. There are currently 16 UN peacekeeping operations and one special political mission - the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) - led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. This chapter focuses on various strategies adopted by UN in its efforts towards achieving peace in Afghanistan and its effectiveness so far.

This paper advanced the argument is that the UNSC has an institutional responsibility to promote the framework conditions that will enhance mediation interventions. The UN Security Council is endowed by the founding Charter, as the institution responsible for establishing the framework conditions for international peace and security. As such the UNSC is humanity best expression of our aspiration and desire for a framework for promoting our collective security.

A historical retrospective reveal that the UNSC prevaricated during the genocide in Rwanda. The UNSC created the not-so-safe havens in Srebrenica that enabled pogroms against Bosnian Muslims. Today, juvenile brinksmanship within the UNSC has allowed the Syrian crisis to deprive innocent children, women and men of their human dignity due to the war crimes that they have had to endure.[1]

Afghanistan is facing war and violence since its inception as a distinct political entity in 1747. Taking recent history into account; after the Soviet Unions invasion, the country had fallen into civil war from 1992 to 1996. Many factors such as social divisions, cultural mores, and geographical location, among others, have been instrumental in determining the course of Afghan history and in laying the foundations for preventing the Afghans from developing the necessary attributes of a strong state with a lasting stable political order.[2] Violence in Afghanistan can be categorized into two types; both Direct and Structural violence.

Taking the above scenario into consideration, enduring peace in Afghanistan is not only seeking to eliminate violence, but also to bring positive interaction between state and society, and among various segments of the society as well. This can be done by addressing both forms of violence, i.e. direct and structural. It includes bringing Taliban on the negotiation table to address the grievances of the local population. All these call for a role of UN to be played in Afghanistan to bring peace there.

Role of UN in building peace in Afghanistan can be traced back to 1980s when an emergency session of UN Security Council, held between 10 and 14 January 1980 as an aftermath of USSRs Afghanistan invasion, passed the resolution ES-6/1.[3] There are currently 16 UN peacekeeping operations and one special political mission - the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) - led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.[4]

It is mentioned in the mandate of UN that UNAMA is there in Afghanistan with mission to support the aspirations of Afghan government in security, stability, and democracy. Besides its mandate covers all aspects which are important to establish enduring peace in Afghanistan e.g. commitment to strengthen the local governments, rule of law, development, co-ordination to international civilian assistance, support for ongoing transition to Afghan security.[5]

UN has done a lot in Afghanistan to soften the grounds for enduring peace, e.g. peace keeping operation, passing resolutions, signing of Enduring Partnership agreement, advisory role to high peace council, support for survival of Afghan National Army, and efforts in countering terrorism. Afghanistan is still in need of a UN role to be played in terms of dealing with not only direct but also structural violence so that Peace can be gained and maintained in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, multiple factors have been instrumental in determining the course of Afghan history and in laying the foundations for preventing the Afghans from developing the necessary attributes of a strong state with a lasting stable political order.[6]

Violence in Afghanistan can be categorized both direct and structural violence.

While focusing on the strategies against pro-western elements and accentuating on making the state an Islamic state, the collapsing state and society in Afghanistan has been neglected. Besides that the one element which contributes towards the destructive phase is the internal discord which revolves around different tribes, ethnic groups, and on religious and ideological lines. There was a quest for power and struggle for autonomy which resulted in intergroup violence.

A ray of optimism emerged when Taliban came into power. They were the followers of a slogan which contained the ingredients which were needed then for the recipe to make Afghanistan peaceful, stable, end warlordism and above all to create a national unity. But very soon all the ethnic minorities were unified to fight against Pakhtun Taliban as they realized that slogan given by Taliban was deceptive and false. Despite serving the interests of Afghans the Taliban regime looked like a supportive regime to serve the interests of foreign militant groups in their respective country.

So, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Tajiks started reclaiming their stake, their territories, and their power sharing in Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the 9/11 episode and resultant GWOT,[7] whether effort of international community to rebuild the country through reconstruction model will be able to deal with question of regional interests and identity or not, is still an important question. For the sake of achieving stability and peace in Afghanistan, the role of UN is very important.

5.2 Peace As Un Agenda
People, since the recorded human history are looking for alternatives of war. So efforts have been and are being made to find the alternative of war. These alternatives can be seen in the form of various initiatives taken by the United Nations and talked about in following paras. The debate of using non-violent measures to end the violence is often considered as doing nothing. But it is not applicable in case of UN.[8] It has its focus from international to state, and then to individual level. To maintain peace, to protect and save the individuals is the core concern of UN. As it is stated by Kofi A. Annan (former UN Secretary General), No shift in the way we think or act can be more critical than this: we must put people at the centre of everything we do.

In 1999, Gallup International sponsored and conducted a Millennium Survey of 57,000 adults in 60 countries. The survey showed that most people around the globe considered the protection of human rights to be the most important task for the United Nations. The younger the respondents, the greater the importance assigned to this goal. United Nations peacekeeping and the provision of humanitarian assistance were also stressed. Globally, less than half of those interviewed judged the performance of the United Nations to be satisfactory.[9]
As per United Nations Charter which came into force on 24 October 1945, and was signed on 26 June 1945, it is established as the aim to save the succeeding generation from scourge of war[10]

To achieve this aim, UN is and has been working under a particular code of conduct:-
Dress, think, talk, act and behave in a manner befitting the dignity of a disciplined, caring, considerate, mature, respected, and trusted soldier, displaying the highest integrity and impartiality.
Treat the inhabitants of the host country with respect, courtesy, and consideration. You are there as a guest to help them…neither solicit nor accept any material reward, honor or gift.
Do not indulge in immoral act of sexual, physical or physiological abuse or exploitation of local population - especially women and children.

Respect and regard human rights of all.

Exercise the utmost discretion in handing matters of official business which can put lives in danger.[11]

International community is in search of conflict management. As far as the vital components of conflict management are concerned, UN peace operations are vital for peace. They are used by Security Council whenever such climate arises which poses threat to international peace and security. Since the end of cold war the nature of conflict has changed, in response to deal with the changing environment, operations have grown with evolving peace building agenda. For the sake of international peace and security, UN currently has deployed 115,000 uniformed and civilian personnel in conflict affected areas. Their maintenance cost is about $7 billion per year.[12]

5.3 UN Accomplishments In Building Peace In Afghanistan
UNAMA is led by its Department of Peacekeeping Operations.[13] It is mentioned in the mandate of UN that UNAMA is there in Afghanistan with mission to support the aspirations of Afghan government in security, stability, and democracy. Besides, the mandate covers all aspects which are important to establish enduring peace in Afghanistan.[14] To accomplish the above mentioned mandate UN has done the following tasks in Afghanistan.
  • Efforts in countering terrorism. On 1st October 2010, Former UN Secretary General Kofi A Annan said, As we summon the will and the resources needed to succeed in the struggle against terrorism, we must also care for all the victims of terrorism, whether they are direct targets or other populations who will be affected by our common effort. That is why I have launched an alert to donors about the potential need for much more generous humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.[15]
  • Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). With signing BSA, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are saddled with an unfinished task which they have in shape of promises to Afghan people, by fighting against heavy odds. They lack ammunition, arms, and latest technology. The role of international community is very important in this regard.
  • India has spent $2 billion on various projects to strength the ANSF under strategic agreement signed between India and Afghanistan.[16] BSA was necessary in sustaining the ANSF and Afghan political system, besides it would illustrate an international presence and international financial assistance which was much needed for the government in post 2014 scenario to run the infrastructure of Afghanistan.[17]
  • Law and Order. Alain Le-Roy, former Under-Secretary General for peacekeeping, while talking about UN Police (UNPOL) once commented, Without law and order there can be no peace, without peace there can be no law and order[18] UN since its presence has played its role to establish law and order in Afghanistan.
  • Advisory to High Peace Council. Besides the UN role in security sphere of Afghanistan, the role of UNAMA is vital, as it plays its role to advice the Afghan High Peace Council that an all inclusive peace process will make Afghanistan able to witness enduring peace. UNAMA can also play a key role in making the Afghans recognize that how a wide array of Afghan national leadership can play their role in strengthening the Afghan institutions, along with the role of sub national leaders in enhancing their role in arena of local governments.[19]
  • Survival for Afghan National Army. With the withdrawal of foreign forces, a transition of security areas has been seen from foreign to Afghan forces which are not yet in a mature form, neither in capabilities nor in numbers. So in order to transform into a cohesive force, they will need foreign support in terms of funding, mentoring, and regular supply and maintenance of arms and equipment. International support is essential at times where state in dysfunctional and polity is fragmented; 350,000 numbers of forces by no means are able to make the country stable. So support is needed to build a professional force with sufficient troops, enough material strength, and which is ethnically balanced.[20]

5.4 Collective Engagement Of Un And Afghanistan
Talking about the fall of Taliban and role of UN, it is important to mention here that reports released on 6 September 2006 by UN Secretary General illustrated that one third of Afghanistan is racked by violent insurgency. So UN was required to speed up its efforts to address the situation.[21]
  • Resolution 1386. According to Chapter 7 of UN Charter,
    Security Council passed the resolution 1386 on 20th December, 2001. As per this resolution, a peace keeping force was deployed in Afghanistan in 2001. As per the Resolution, Afghans were allowed to enjoy the right of freedom. Besides, it accentuated the need to establish the government in Afghanistan according to proceedings of Bonn Conference held on 5th December 2001.[22]
  • Resolution 1833. UN while passing the resolution 1833 on 22 September, 2008 extended the presence of ISAF in Afghanistan till 13th October 2009. It reaffirmed the UN commitment towards Afghanistans sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, and national unity. Resolution 1833 also emphasized on not harming the Afghan civilians, as increased violence would hamper the stabilization agenda in Afghanistan.[23]
  • Increased boots on grounds. President Barak Obama in his speech (made on December1, 2009) announced to increase number of troops in Afghanistan to total 30,000.[24]
  • Enduring Partnership Agreement. The agreement was signed in 2012 between Afghanistan and US. It says that US will stay in Afghanistan till 2024. As a result, forces have changed the strategy to deal with the threat while moving away from counter insurgency to a counter terrorism operations with limited military capabilities and assets.
  • UNEP an NEPA. On 21st September 2015, United Nations Environmental Program and Afghan National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) celebrated 7th Annual Peace Trek which is being celebrated globally since last seven years. Its aim was to create awareness amongst public about those aspects which are generally comprised in civil society, and are related to importance of peace and environment protection in Afghanistan. During the session, issues of natural resources, environment and depletion of resources as a cause of generating conflict came under serious discussion.[25]

While taking a glance of the challenges being faced by present unitary government, it is revealed that they are not different from those faced by Karzai Government. These challenges include; managing the interest of different and diverse population, informal power structures, and sub-national level resistance from the militant groups. These are the core issues; others ranging from governance to human security demand a separate debate.

5.5 Development For Peace In Afghanistan
From year 2000 onwards a lot of development took place in policy reforms of United Nations. The Brahimi Report is considered the starting point of reforms since 2000. A panel on United Nations peace operations, chaired by Mr Lakhdar Brahimi, in 2012 assembled to discuss the major challenges which UN faced during peace operations. Later, Capstone doctrine came on the stage in 2008 which acknowledged that UN had been working without clear guidance on peace keeping. So it outlined core functions and strategies for UN peace keeping missions. Whereas in 2009 another initiative was taken in terms of New Horizon. Challenges were identified as were identified in Brahimi Report and areas were suggested to improve UN peace keeping.[26]

5.5.1 Stabilization Agenda
As per an estimate there are 40 to 60 fragile states in the world. In this regard, the role of United Nation is very important, which, through, rule of law, preventive diplomacy, peace keeping, and peace building strategies tries to manage stabilization projects in fragile states. Owing to this aspect, there are two viewpoints available, where, first, is in favor of a military style of operations, whereas second accentuated upon developmental aspects of stabilization. In a nutshell, UN mission are often sounded like from peacekeeping to peace building. As it is witnessed that UN very recently is wading in the arena of stabilization agenda, so it is considered as newcomer for this, still it has 180,000 blue helmets and civilian personnel for peace keeping and peacemaking. It has adopted the strategy of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR).

Stabilization programmes are not necessarily taken in full scale scenario rather, they can be taken in a no war no peace scenario. They are not meant to build a positive peace during peace building, nor are they aimed at social transformation, and reconstruction in case of development. They are carried out to create calm and conducive environment for a state to resume its functions. The aim is to reduce violence and increase trust on local security and justice. The important aspect which is necessary to mention here is that these programmes are undertaken with the consent of host government/state. UN operations are guided by a doctrine which also actuates on the above mentioned description.[27]

In this regard, year 2015 witnessed some important moves from Afghan Government and Taliban. Both the parties gathered in Pakistan and talks were held in Murree on 7th July 2015, in the presence of representatives of China and US. That was the time when Taliban agreed for an agreement within the constitution of Afghanistan. The golden opportunity for peace process faded away with the break of news related to death of Mulla Omer, and the announcement for continuity of Jihad against Afghan Government and its allies by his successor Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.[28]

5.6 Peace Process In Afghanistan: Efforts Through Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG)
Peace negotiation in Afghanistan is a complex process and there are several actors and stakeholders involved in it or influencing it. Considering that Taliban poses a formidable challenge to the security of Afghanistan and acknowledging that peace can only be brought through negotiations and dialogue, the Government of Afghanistan initiated a peace process in 2015. However, the peace process failed in July 2015 due to the revelation of Mullah Omars death and subsequently calling off of the talks by Taliban.

In December 2015, four member QCG[29] was formed during Heart of Asia meeting to revive and facilitate the peace talks. In 2016, Afghanistan initiated a peace talk, amid growing Taliban attacks, with the help of QCG, and urged the insurgent group to join the negotiating table. With the completion of QCGs four preparatory meetings on January 11, 18 and February 06 and 23, the Group had been able to chalk out a roadmap, stipulating the stages and steps of the peace process for direct peace talks between the representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and Taliban groups. Also the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) was revamped so that it could support the envisaged process more effectively.

The Joint Press Release following the fourth QCG meeting states The QCG member states invite all Taliban and other groups to participate through their authorized representatives in the first round of direct peace talks with the Afghan government expected to take place by the first week of March 2016. Pakistan has graciously offered to host this round of talks in Islamabad.[30]

However, in his remarks at fourth QCG meeting, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Salahuddin Rabbani maintained that though his government would welcome any group joining the peace process, but those elements of the armed groups who continue to refuse to join the peace talks, and continue the path of violence must realize that our message to them is clear: our brave security forces will not hesitate in their resolve to fight them resolutely, wherever they are, to stop them from committing terror, violence and bloodshed.[31]

5.6.1 Talibans Response
The Taleban, in their first response to the QCG statement issued by the spokesman of their political office in Qatar said they were unaware of plans for talks.[32] The Taleban spokesman, Muhammad Naim Wardak, added that they had not changed their position regarding the conditions under which they would be ready to join a peace process, as announced at the second Pugwash meeting in Doha on 23 January 2016.[33] Taliban has some pre-conditions [34]before they go to the negotiating Table, which include: excluding names of Taliban leaders from the UN blacklist; taking down awards set for arrest or killing of militants; releasing Taliban prisoners; establishment of official venue for the Islamic Emirate in Doha as the only authorised entity; withdrawal of foreign troops; implementation of Shariah law; and formation of interim government. Qutbuddin Hilal, adviser to President Ashraf Ghani on Peace Affairs, told that government of Afghanistan is willing to consider their demands except one i.e. installation of an interim government in Kabul.[35]

Following the fourth QCG meeting and assertion by four countries representatives that Taliban would soon participate in the peace process, the Taliban has denied that it would be participating in any upcoming talks. We reject any such rumours and unequivocally state that the leader of Islamic Emirate has not authorised anyone to participate in the meeting, Taliban said in its official statement.[36] Instead, Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has recently asked Taliban fighters to prepare for a decisive battle in this summer offensive to take advantage of battlefield victories of last year.[37] The refusal by Taliban to participate in the peace process is not surprising as the initiative by QCG has been unilateral. The framing of the agenda and setting up of the timelines was done unilaterally by QCG group and Taliban was not involved in the initial preparation.

Further, Taliban has also accused the U.S. and Government of Afghanistan of hypocrisy, as on one hand, they are initiating peace process and asking Taliban to denounce terrorism, on the other hand, they are continuing with their drone attacks and counter insurgency programme.[38] Mullah Muhammad Rassuls dissident Taliban faction has also rejected the peace talks offer and maintained that it would be ready to engage in peace talks only after the departure of all foreign troops.[39]

The Taliban seems divided on whether they should openly engage in talks with Kabul government or wait for the time when the Afghan government collapse in the face of resistance. However, by rejecting the peace process, the Taliban is buying time for another violent offensive season, so that it can have an upper hand on the negotiating table. Since, a large number of NATO forces have withdrawn. Taliban would try to have its chance to establish Islamic Emirate. However, if Taliban agrees for the peace talks, in future, it will keep delaying the talks as it serves its interests both in peace politics and on the battle ground. However, all depends on the internal strength and coherence of Taliban to continue the insurgency.

5.6.2 Afghanistan-Pakistan Differences
Though Pakistan has seemingly shown its commitment regarding cooperation in peace talks several times, Afghanistan has not been very confident about the role of Pakistan. The relations between the two countries reached their lowest point when the news of Mullah Omars death was revealed after the Murree talks. Experts and officials of many countries debate whether Pakistan is committed to Afghan stability or to exerting control over Afghanistan through ties with the insurgent groups. DOD reports on Afghanistans stability have repeatedly identified Afghan militants safe haven in Pakistan as a threat to Afghan stability, and some recent DOD reports have stated that Pakistan uses proxy forces in Afghanistan to counter Indian influence there.[40]

After years of denying that it harbours insurgents, Pakistan admitted to maintaining contacts with the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network, and offered to act as a conduit between the Taliban and the United States and Afghanistan.[41] However, since the Heart of Asia Conference, reportedly Washington and Beijing have been pushing Islamabad to cooperate with Afghanistan for brokering groundbreaking peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Though the four preparatory meetings of the QCG were an attempt to mitigate the mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, little progress seems to have been made on this front. The Afghanistan government believes that the onus lies with Pakistan for a successful peace negotiation with Taliban; however, Pakistan has maintained that it can only facilitate the peace talks.

Further disagreement is that Afghanistan perceives Pakistan as having full control on Taliban and it can play a major role in the peace process, however, Pakistan says that it has only limited influence on Taliban.[42] This is going to be a test of genuineness for Pakistan as it is believed that Pakistan has managed both - participating in a war on terror and at the same time facilitating Taliban to grow on its soil. Until now, Taliban has been seen as its strongest card in the regional power play, so what would motivate Pakistan, now, to act against Taliban?

However, Afghanistan's anger is unlikely to change Pakistan's Afghan policies since the country's military and civil establishments still consider the Taliban as an important strategic asset and Pakistan security apparatus still believes that the Taliban could be used as a strategic tool to counter Indian presence in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in an interview to Fars News Agency of Iran, former president Hamid Karzai has suggested that Russia, Iran and India should also be included in the ongoing international push to revive the stalled Afghan peace process.[43]

5.6.3 Challenges
There have been several gaps and challenges in the current peace initiative by QCG, which should be dealt carefully. The challenges are as follows:
Since Taliban is not a monolithic group, it has to be carefully charted out as to which group(s) the Afghan government is targeting to engage. The government should plan in advance what it would do if Taliban refuses to participate.

In case the Taliban agrees to participate, what would be the agenda of talks? To what extent can the government develop a consensus with Taliban?
Another important challenge for Afghanistan would be to convince Taliban to accept Afghan constitution, which seems a bit difficult as Taliban has always strived for Shariah based law in the country.

To what extend the Government of Afghanistan can trust Pakistan and its role in the peace process? What role would China play to secure its national interests? Would it convince Pakistan to bring Taliban to the negotiating table or would it rely on Pakistans strategy?

5.7 Key Developments In 2016 Towards The Implementation Of Inclusive National And Regional Processes To Enhance Peace, Reintegration And Reconciliation.[44]
  • On 11 January 2016, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) consisting of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States met for the first time to discuss the Afghan peace and reconciliation process in Islamabad. Parties confirmed mutual efforts to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process to achieve lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. Three further QCG meetings were held.
  • On 21 September 2016 in New York, on the margins of the 71st UN General Assembly, India, Afghanistan and the United Sates held a round of trilateral consultations at which they reaffirmed shared interests in advancing peace and security in the region, as well as countering terrorism.
  • On 22 September 2016, a peace agreement was signed between the Afghan Government and Hizb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG). On 6 November 2016, the Afghan government and the HIG Joint Executive Commission for the implementation of the peace agreement officially started its work.
  • On 20 November 2016, a HIG delegation met with President Ghani to discuss the release of HIG prisoners, refugee repatriation and land distribution. Two days later, a HIG delegation visited Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul and met HIG prisoners. All issues regarding the implementation of the peace agreement continue to be addressed by the Joint Executive Commission.
  • There were four meetings convened by Pugwash in 2016 related to peace and security in Afghanistan; 23-24 January 2016 in Doha, Qatar on Peace and Security in Afghanistan; 5 September 2016 in Kabul, Afghanistan on moving towards peace in Afghanistan; 22 November 2016 in Islamabad, Pakistan on Pakistan-Afghan relations and; 13 December 2016 in Kabul, Afghanistan on peace in Afghanistan.

5.8 Peace Talks Sponsored By Russia
On April 14th 2017, Moscow invited 12 states to take part in consultations devoted to the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and the start of direct talks between the countrys government and the Taliban.[45]

In December, Moscow hosted consultations between diplomats from Russia, Pakistan, and China to discuss the start of a national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The format was expanded in mid-February to involve Afghanistan, Iran, and India.

However, it is important to note here that, U.S. administration refused to take part in the conference, questioning Russian intentions and motives. With support from the US and other NATO members, the conference in Moscow could have been a major stride towards resolving the Afghan crisis. Despite having conflicting views and interests, regional actors seemed to be inching toward a single approach to stability in the war-torn country.

But the Trump team, in spite of Americas dismal failure to enforce a semblance of security in a country dubbed as the graveyard of empires, remains cynical of regional peace bids. The US, which is yet to unveil its game plan, chose to play the spoiler by boycotting the negotiations.

5.9 Increase In Death Toll
For Afghanistan, 2016 was another year coupled with both ups and downs that tested the government, people, and the international communitys resolve to assist the country. Failures of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan (NUG) included the Talibans temporary re-capture of the strategic provincial capital of Kunduz for a second time, the re emergence of the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, and the governments inability to create employment opportunities to stop the exodus of Afghans into Europe. Meanwhile on the upside for the NUG, 2016 has seen the peace deal with Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, increased connectivity with China, the opening of the first rail connection between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, and successful efforts to isolate Pakistan at the regional and international level[46].

As per the report on 27 April 2017[47] United Nations mission in Afghanistan urged all parties to the conflict to take immediate and concrete measures to better protect civilians from harm, as the latest data for 2017 shows continued high numbers of civilian casualties.

It is civilians, with increasing numbers of women and children, who far too often bear the brunt of the conflict, said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a press release. With the so-called fighting season imminent, I appeal to all parties to take every measure possible to prevent unnecessary and unacceptable harm to Afghan civilians.

In the first quarter of 2017, UNAMA documented 2,181 civilian casualties - 715 dead and 1,466 injured, a four per cent decrease compared to the same period in 2016. Civilian deaths decreased by two per cent while civilian injuries decreased by five per cent.

Ground fighting remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, accounting for 35 per cent of all civilian casualties.

Anti-Government elements caused 62 per cent of civilian casualties, 447 dead and 906 injured for a combined 1,353, reflecting a five per cent increase compared to the same period in 2016.
UNAMA attributed 451, or 21 per cent of, civilian casualties - 165 dead and 286 injured - to pro-Government forces, a decrease of two per cent compared to the same period in 2016.
The mission documented 148 civilian casualties - 72 dead and 76 injured - from aerial operations, a disturbing increase compared to 29 civilian casualties - eight dead and 21 injured - in the first quarter of 2016.

Improvised explosive devices (all non-suicide switch types) remained the second leading cause of civilian casualties, responsible for 409 civilian casualties - 126 dead and 283 injured, a decrease of one per cent compared to the same period in 2016 and comprising 19 per cent of all civilian casualties.

Suicide and complex attacks continued to cause record levels of civilian harm. The Mission recorded a five percent increase in civilian casualties from these tactics - 374 civilian casualties, 108 dead and 266 injured, accounting for 17 per cent of all civilian casualties.

Pressure-plate improvised explosive devices caused 218 civilian casualties, 86 dead and 132 injured, a 12 per cent increase.

Civilian casualties from unexploded ordnance increased by one per cent to 203, 50 dead and 153 injured, of which children comprised 81 per cent.

UNAMA is extremely concerned by increases in both child and women civilian casualties, particularly deaths. The Mission recorded a 24 per cent increase to 273 women civilian casualties, 88 dead and 185 injured.

Also in the first quarter, the mission recorded 735 child casualties, 210 dead and 525 injured, a three per cent increase compared to the same period in 2016.

The role of UN in Afghanistan is very important, as after signing of BSA and withdrawal of NATO forces, there is again resurgence of direct violence in Afghanistan as it was witnessed when Taliban took over Kunduz last year.

The peace talks are a contentious issue, however, not least within Afghanistan itself. Western engagement, meanwhile, remains characterized by a lack of knowledge about the nature of the Taliban and what it stands for.

It is widely agreed that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. The US has long sought quick fixes such as more troops or exerting more diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to manage the problem. These measures may weaken the Taliban in the short term, but they wont lead to long-term peace. Increasing pressure on Islamabad, for example, may simply see it seek allies elsewhere in the region—Pakistan is already one of the closest partners of China. Given this, the most likely scenario for the year ahead is that of a continued stalemate, with neither the government nor the Taliban strong enough to tip the power balance completely in its favour.

Although one can be critical of the UN role, it is important to note that without the political will of the international community, its impact was always going to be limited. As the UN Secretary General commented in 1997:
It could be argued that…the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan is little more than that of an alibi to provide cover for the inaction - or worse- of the international community at large.

The member states conferred on the Security Council the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security and sub limiting their sovereign prerogative of using force. The member states might have not surrendered their national interest to an over- arching Internationalism but there was an attempt to redefine national interest in view of increasing interdependence within the framework of an international organization. The founding members of the United Nations who assembled at San Francisco in 1945 were determined to create an institution that would be more effective than its predecessor (the League of Nations) in maintaining world peace and security. [48]

The Security Council was armed with greater powers than the League Council and members were obliged to carry out its decisions regarding use of armed forces against aggressors. However, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of US-led unipolar world the working of this body has undergone a tremendous change.[49] In the period following World War II, the checks-and-balance mechanism existed as the cold war between the power blocs (United States-led NATO and the Soviet Union-led Warsaw Pact), neutralized each others hostile postures despite their arms race.

Although there was mistrust between the two power blocs, due to their aggressive stance, they could ensure that World War did not break. But with the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of the cold war, the United States hijacked the global collective security mechanism through its economic influence and military prowess; emerging worlds watchdog. Apart from face-off with the key players in the United Nations on security matters that affect its interest, the United States faces one major challenge.

After the Soviet forces entered Afghanistan in December 1979, the US became committed to force the Soviet Union to end its occupation and withdraw. It wanted to score a point against the Soviet Union in the cold war by inflicting a crushing and humiliating defeat on it. The US supported the Mujahedeen, without ever looking into their credentials or ideology. When the Taliban arose from the madrasas in Pakistan in 1994 with the avowed objective of getting rid of the feuding and corrupt Mujahedeen rulers, the US only looked on. Some analysts even suggested that the Taliban served American interests. The US hoped that after long years of turmoil, the Taliban would unite the country.

Since the bombing of the American embassies in Dar-e-Salaam in Tanzania and Nairobi in Kenya in 1998 had given a jolt to the US, its perception of terrorism underwent a radical change. Al Qaedas attack on the US on 11 September 2001 could only be compared in its magnitude and impact with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. These attacks on the economic and political symbols of Western power constituted the closure of an era of US invulnerability.

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  18. Vishal Chandra, The Unfinished War in Afghanistan (2001-2014). Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis. 2014. 302
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  20. Michelle Barsa, Finding a Role for the UN in Afghanistan, 27th March, 2012. Accessed from
  21. Vishal Chandra, The Unfinished War in Afghanistan (2001-2014). Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis. 2014. 302-303
  22. Jean-Rodrigue Paré , Afghanistan; UN intervention. Political and Social Affairs Division-2007. Accessed from
  23. Resolution 1386 (2001), UN security Council. 20th December 2001. Accessed from
  24. Resolution 1833 (2008), UN Security Council. 22 September 2008. Accessed from
  25. Tim Fernholz, Dodging the Real Questions on Afghanistan. Global Policy Forum. December 2, 2009. Accessed from - and intervention/ afghanistan/48506.html
  26. Afghanistan's Seventh Annual Peace Trek on International Day of Peace, United Nation Environment Programs (UNEP). Accessed
  27. from
  28. Claes Nilsson and Kristine Zetterlund. Ready or Not? Revamping the UN peacekeeping in 21st Century. Febrary 2014. Accessed from
  29. Robert Muggah, Reflecting on United nations-led Stabalization: Late Peace Keeping, Early Peace Building or Something else? Page 56-70. In a book Edited by Robert Muggah, StabalizationsOpperations, Security and Development States of Fragility. Routeldge, 2014.
  30. MateenHaider, Afghan peace process best course of action in Pakistan's view: Aziz. DAWN. 13 November, 2015. Accessed from
  31. Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was formed in December 2015 on the sidelines of Heart of Asia meeting in Islamabad to strive to steer out Afghanistan from decades of violence and establish peace through peaceful means. Its members are: Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States
  32. Joint Press Release: The Fourth Meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China, 23 February 2017. URL:
  33. Remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani at the 4th Meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG). 23 February 2017. URL: Accessed on 24 February 2017.
  34. Thomas Rutting, In Search of a Peace Process: A new HPC and Ultimatum for Taliban, Afghanistan Analysis Network, 26 February 2017. URL: Accessed on 28 February 2017
  35. Ibid
  36. Four Countries Talks Resume to Revive Afghan Peace Plan, Al Jazeera, War & Conflict, 06 February 2017. URL: Accessed on 07 February 2017.
  37. Tahir Khan, Afghanistan Taliban Government Talks: Kabul Amenable to all but one Taliban Demand, Express Tribune, 02 March 2017
  38. The official statement of Taliban has been published in Taliban Rejects Talks. Again, Afghan Hindsight, 07 March 2016.
  39. URL: Accessed on 12 March 2017.
  40. Ayaz Gul, Afghan Spy Chief Blames Pakistan for Taliban Resurgence, Afghan Open Press News, 28 March 2016.URL: Accessed on 29 March 2017
  41. Taliban not Ready for Talks, Outlook Afghanistan, 06 March 2016. URL: Accessed on 07 March 2017.
  42. Kenneth Katzman, Afghanistan: Post Taliban Governance, Security, and U. S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, 17 February 2016. URL: Accessed on 16 March 2016
  43. Zalmay Khalilzad and James Dobbins, Pakistan Holds the Key to Peace in Afghanistan, RAND Cooperation, 11 January 2016. URL: Accessed on 23 February 2016.
  44. Abdul Basit, Afghanistans Last Chance for Peace, International The News, 19 January 2016. URL: Accessed on 28 January 2016.
  45. Javed Hamim Kakar, Karzai Wants Russia, Iran, India Included in Peace Push, Pajhwok Afghan News, 06 February 2016. URL: Accessed on 12 February 2016.
  46. The situation in Afghanistan and its implication for peace and security, Report of Seceretary General - 3rd march 2017
  47. The US should have attended the latest peace talks, Available at
  48. Available at
  49. UNAMA Causality report available at
  50. Consensus, EXT/EX.CL/2 (VII), African Union, Addis Ababa. 7-8 March. Rumki Basu, The United Nations-Structure and Functions of an International Organisation,
  51. Rumki Basu, The United Nations-Structure and Functions of an International Organisation, New Delhi, Sterling Publishers, 1996, p. 336

Written By: Sayed Qudrat Hashimy, Department of Studies in Law, University of Mysore
e-mail: [email protected] - contact no. +91 9008813333 - +93700383333   

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