posted on Wed 9 Oct 2013 3:23 PM
Afghanistan: International Security Assistance Force Reauthorisation

Tomorrow morning (10 October), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution reauthorising the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan until 31 December 2014. Australia, the penholder on Afghanistan, circulated the draft resolution to Council members in mid-September. An initial read-through of the draft was held on 17 September. Due to the opening of the General Assembly during the week of 23 September, negotiations began in earnest only in early October. Including the initial read-through, there were a total of four negotiating sessions. The resolution was finalised and put in blue yesterday evening.

It appears that the negotiations were not contentious, although the text reflects several compromises. The draft resolution will reauthorise ISAF for more than a year, through the end of 2014, to coincide with the completion of its drawdown in Afghanistan. It seems Russia would have preferred the standard 12 month reauthorisation but agreed to the longer period. In return, it seems that two Russian suggestions were incorporated into the draft resolution.

First, language has been incorporated into the draft resolution noting that any new NATO mission in Afghanistan after 2014 should have a sound legal basis, a point that Russia has argued in Council debates on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Although the draft resolution does not specifically indicate that a Security Council resolution would provide this legal basis, as Russia would have preferred, it does reference paragraph 14 of the Chicago Summit Joint Declaration on Afghanistan from May 2012, in which NATO members indicated that they would “ensure that the new mission has a sound legal basis, such as a United Nation’s Security Council Resolution.” To date, however, it should be noted that the US and Afghanistan have yet to come to terms on a post-2014 security arrangement, a point that the US apparently highlighted during the negotiations.

Second, in addition to the quarterly ISAF reports to the Council, the resolution will also request a final, comprehensive report in December 2014, also in keeping with a suggestion from Russia.

Another issue that generated some differences of opinion during the negotiation was how to characterise Afghanistan’s efforts to develop and implement its National Action Plan for Women and to fully implement its law on the Elimination of Violence against Women. It seems that some members, particularly Argentina and Guatemala, had concerns that the language in earlier iterations of the text was too positive, as the Afghan government, has yet to show significant progress in these areas.

As a compromise, the final text, while welcoming Afghanistan’s commitment to women’s issues, is more muted in tone than prior versions of the draft had been. The revised text only uses the term “welcoming” once, whereas the original version apparently used the term “welcoming” twice in reference to Afghanistan’s engagement on women’s issues. Furthermore, the final text recognises that Afghanistan’s efforts to implement the National Action Plan for Women are part of a continuing process, apparently a nuanced departure from the original version of the text, which merely welcomed the government efforts to accelerate implementation of this Plan.

Unlike prior resolutions reauthorising ISAF, the draft resolution contains several additional references in the preambular section to the rights of women and children. The draft urges the continued training of Afghan security forces so that they have the capacity to protect the rights of women and girls. It condemns the targeting and killing of women and girls, particularly high-level female officials, and reaffirms the importance of protecting them from sexual violence. On the issue of children and armed conflict, it appears that additional language was incorporated in the draft at the request of Luxembourg welcoming progress that Afghanistan has made in implementing its Action Plan regarding children in the Afghan security forces and acknowledging NATO’s commitment to addressing the issue of children and armed conflict.

The draft resolution will also reflect recent political developments related to Afghanistan since the last reauthorisation of ISAF’s mandate. For example, it will welcome the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference in Almaty (26 April 2013) and the “Heart of Asia” Senior Officials Meeting in New York (23 September 2013). (These meetings are part of the Istanbul process on Afghanistan launched in November 2011 to promote coordination between Afghanistan and neighbouring countries in dealing with common threats, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, poverty and extremism.) The draft resolution is also likely to welcome the adoption of key electoral legislation in Afghanistan in preparation for the 2014 elections.

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