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
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
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. 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. 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.
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.
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
Violence in Afghanistan can be categorized both direct and
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
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, 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. 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
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.
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
To achieve this aim, UN is and has been working under a particular code of
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.
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.
5.3 UN Accomplishments In Building Peace In Afghanistan
UNAMA is led by its Department of Peacekeeping Operations. 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. To accomplish the above mentioned mandate UN
has done the following tasks in Afghanistan.
5.4 Collective Engagement Of Un And 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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 UN since its presence has played its role to establish law and order
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Increased boots on grounds. President Barak Obama in his speech (made on
December1, 2009) announced to increase number of troops in Afghanistan to total
- 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.
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.
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
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
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
5.6 Peace Process In Afghanistan: Efforts Through Quadrilateral Coordination
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 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.
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.
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. 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. Taliban has some pre-conditions 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. 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
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.
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. 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
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
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.
5.8 Peace Talks Sponsored By Russia
- 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.
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.
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.
As per the report on 27 April 2017 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. 
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.
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
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.
Written By: Sayed Qudrat Hashimy,
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Department of Studies in Law,
University of Mysore
e-mail: sayedqudrat[email protected]
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