Issue The situation in Afghanistan re-establishing freedom

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					Issue: The situation in Afghanistan: re-establishing freedom, peace and stability
Student Officer: Mareike Herzog


Afghanistan has been embroiled with conflict for the last quarter of a century. After
the invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1979, which lasted for
nine years, Afghanistan was left with severe unrest and subsequent civil wars. In 1996, the
Taliban were able to take control of the capital, although they failed to reign over the whole
This regime, however, was short-lived due to the invasion of North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) forces, spearheaded by the United States of America (USA). In the
wake of this second invasion, Afghanistan was able to install a democratically elected
government. However, neither the establishment of a legitimate government, nor the efforts
of the U.S. and NATO forces have been able to instil peace and stability. Although there have
been significant strides towards that goal in the country, Afghanistan is still considered a
fragile state.
The United Nations (UN) has been actively seized in the issue throughout. The
Secretary General’s Office has issued reports periodically, and both the General Assembly
(GA) and the Security Council (SC) have produced numerous resolutions on this subject. The
resolutions have highlighted issues such as production and trafficking of drugs and their
impact on the Afghan economy, extensive human rights violations, refugees and internally
displaced persons, threats to stability and security made by Taliban and Al-Qaeda and last but
not least, the fragile political environment. There have been significant efforts to address all
of these issues specifically and they will be explained in-depth later in this report. The efforts
of the UN have been, and still are, substantially supported by the activities of numerous UN
organizations in the area.
Ensuring the re-establishment of peace, freedom and stability in Afghanistan should be
considered as a tough challenge. Although there are many prevailing issues that are yet to be
solved, the main focus should be on combating insurgent groups such as Taliban, Al-Qaeda
and other smaller groups in order to grant the control of the state to the government and to
give an end to further instigations that give rise to insurgence and a chaotic environment.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Though Afghanistan has been a host to many conflicts, the 2001 military operation
headed by the U.S. and backed by the NATO should be considered as a focal point in this
issue, since it is the precursor to the issues that must be contended with today.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was a direct consequence of the September 11
attacks on the United States, and the refusal of Afghanistan to extradite Osama bin Laden,
head of the Al-Qaeda organization. One of the main goals of the operation was to overthrow
the Taliban regime and provide an environment suitable for the establishment of a new
government. Although the operation succeeded in this respect, and has also cleared adjacent
territories of insurgent forces, Taliban and Al-Qaeda presence still exists in Afghanistan and
the conflict continues, though sporadically. OEF is yet to conclude.

Upon arrival in Afghanistan the allied forces of the U.S. and NATO joined forces with the
United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (UIF), better known by the western
media as the Northern Alliance. The UIF was the main power against the Taliban in the
struggle for the control of the northern territories. They were also working to unite various
Afghan groups to fight the Taliban instead of fighting each other. The tension surrounding
the UIF had risen to an insurmountable level, as their leader was assassinated just a month
prior to OEF. Contrary to what was predicted, the leaderless UIF did not meet its demise, and
they were a main contributor in the operation and played an instrumental role in establishing
the transitional Afghan government in 2002.
The NATO was also a major contributor, as it put together the International Security
Assistant Force (ISAF), whose establishment was ordered by the Security Council. The ISAF
forces number around 50,000 today and play a major role in the efforts towards bringing
security to the region.

Governance and the Political Environment

Fig 1: Afghanistan: A country divided1
Following the downfall of the Taliban regime in 2001, efforts on re-establishing a
democratic environment in Afghanistan began. It was agreed that a transition period would
be appropriate before moving on to a permanent government. Upon this decision, the Bonn
Agreement was made between Afghan leaders. The agreement resulted in the establishment
of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA), which was followed by the Transitional Authority,
which had a two- year mandate. The Bonn Agreement also envisioned the establishment of
ISAF and the establishment of a new legal systemalong with a Supreme Court.
In 2004, the new constitution was adopted by the Loya Jirga, which is an Afghan grand
assembly, and Hamid Karzai became the first ever democratically elected head of state in
Afghanistan. Successful parliament and provincial elections were also held in 2005. Although
all of these seem to be solid steps taken towards establishing a stable political environment,
the Afghan government controls a limited area. As of 2008, the government has control of
only 31% of the country, and the rest is divided between the Taliban and tribal groups, the
majority going to the latter. These figures
are alarming, considering that the leaders of the locally controlled areas are militants who are
closely linked to both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and have goals of bringing Islamic rule to
the state and defeating western forces with violent methods.
It is a fact that continued foreign occupation and a lack of stability has caused a
significant gap in security. The already ethnically diverse and sometimes clashing peoples
have been divided and scores of local leaders have been ruling small areas under their own
draconian laws. The emergence of these local control areas are also supplemented a strong
presence of uncontrolled militant groups in northwest Pakistan, who frequently contribute to
the activity in their neighbouring country.

The U.S. has stated that such insurgencies pose the largest threats to security. Trends
of the conflict support this statement. The mountainous landscape of Afghanistan provides
the militants with a terrain that makes them hard to spot and follow. This is a major hindrance
to efforts made towards eradicating them, and the numbers show this. 30 or 40 militants are
killed every day and sometimes as little as three. This equals a slow and painstaking
clearance in the area.

Parties to the Conflict

The Taliban
The Taliban was founded as a movement aiming to bring fundamentalist Islamic rule
to Afghanistan. When they came to power in 1996, they controlled almost 90% of the country
and were forcing a strict law based on Sunni Islam. This regulated the daily life of people,
setting rules such as forcing all women to veil themselves, imposing curfews, banning all
forms of entertainment and many other that were seen fit according to their strict
interpretation of Islam. Though the Taliban have fallen from power since then, they still
impose the same rules in their controlled territories. It is said that all signs of western culture
and modernity have become the targets of Taliban.
In 2006, the Taliban insurgency suddenly increased from the point of almost being at a
standstill. The new wave of attacks was comprised of suicide bombings and improvised
explosives, and continued throughout 2007 as well. It should be noted that this increase in
attacks occurred when the NATO forces took over the role of combating the Taliban in early
2006. Since then civilians have also been protesting against western forces in the country,
claiming that they harm innocent civilians. President Karzai was also quoted saying “And for
two years I have systematically, consistently, and on a daily basis warned the international
community of what was developing in Afghanistan and of the need for a change of approach
in this regard,” and “the international community must reassess the manner in which this war
against terror is conducted.”
News reports in October 2008 have claimed that the Taliban is negotiating to end the
conflict through Saudi mediators and have split from Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda’s origins can be traced back to 1989. After its first leader died, Osama bin
Laden became the new head and kept on running the fundamentalist Islamist movement. In
1996, bin Laden came to Afghanistan and was largely behind the Taliban and funded their
regime and influenced their activities.
Al-Qaeda is very closely linked with the Taliban. They live in coexistence in
Afghanistan although now Al-Qaeda is not present as a large body. Taliban militants have
been trained in camps all over Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda has expanded its operations to the
international world, with 40 to 50 operatives worldwide, with a number of recorded attacks
on major cities.
Bin Laden is said to be hiding somewhere in Afghanistan under the protection of
Taliban operatives. Likewise, most of the Al-Qaeda’s members are dispersed into pockets all
around the country after their training camps were destroyed in 2002. Currently there are
reports of Al-Qaeda strengthening in the mountains of Pakistan and also in Yemen.

Coalition Forces
The coalition forces are known collectively under the name of International Security
Assistant Force (ISAF), which was authorized by the Security Council. It is made up of
troops from NATO countries, with the majority coming from the USA, United Kingdom,
France, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Australia. Their mandate, which was
limited to Kabul, was extended to the whole country in 2006, and forces were distributed
across Afghanistan. ISAF forces are coordinated by the NATO, and work cooperatively with
the Afghan government and military units and security personnel.
Fig. 2: ISAF2
                                                                                   has the
                                                                                   lead for

reconstruction operations. ISAF is also
active in areas such as the security sector reform, training, disarmament, demobilisation and
reintegration of former combatants. The mandate of ISAF was extended by the Security
Council for one more year in September 2008, which was actually set to expire with the
completion of the provisions of the Bonn Agreement.
The reliability and effectiveness of ISAF has been questioned for the past two years.
As Taliban attacks intensified in 2006, it became obvious that the capacity of ISAF was being
stretched in trying to combat theses attacks and other violent activities of the Taliban,
especially after extending the area of duty to the whole of the country. The international
community as well as the Security Council have voiced their concern about ISAF’s duty,
with the ever-increasing number of civilian deaths in the country. Civilians are also in
opposition to the ISAF and the way they have been conducting their operations. Even
officials of the Afghan military have been reported to leave the force and join the Taliban,

citing the anti-Islam and unjustified behaviour of the western troops as a main factor in their

UN Action

The UN has established a number of organizations to work in the area over the past 20 years,
which included UN Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan (UNGOMAP) and
the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA). The Secretary General has also been
active in the issue by appointing Personal Representatives and Special Envoys and by issuing
reports periodically. The General Assembly and the Human Rights commission have also
been closely involved by tracking the deteriorating human rights and by passing strongly
worded resolutions on human rights abuses. The Security Council has also issued a number
of statements and resolution over the past ten years, which were largely ignored by the parties
Afghanistan. Though these efforts proved to unsuccessful, the SC was more actively engaged
in the matter after the September 11 attacks. The SC authorized ISAF and also set up the
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The assignment of another
mission represents the tendency to be more closely involved with the issues.
The UN has also established a comprehensive reconstruction plan for Afghanistan
after 2002. These institution-building activities are organized along seven major lines, which
are Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program, Creation of an Afghan
National Army (ANA), Creation of an Afghan National Police (ANP), Judicial Reform,
Human Rights, Gender Equality and Counter-Narcotics Activities.
The analysis of information from these seven fields of activity concludes that these
activities are far from reaching their desired goals. The DDR program began, but has not
reached its goal of disbanding all illegal armed units by the end of 2007, largely due to the
unexpected rise in insurgency in 2006. The ANA is currently active and represents a national
unity while cooperating with ISAF as well, but there are still problems with recruitment and
the payment of soldiers. The ANP project has reached the number of trained officials as they
had set forth, but this is only theoretical, as there are major integration issues and the forces
cannot be sent on duty.
Corruption is also a major issue. The Judicial Reform has provided the country with
new courts and the necessary infrastructure, but the lack of adequately educated judges and
the overwhelming number of cases hinder the fair operation of the judicial system. There has
been a limited amount of improvement in the human rights area as the UN continued its work
with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). The freedom of
conscience and religion is very difficult to enforce and freedom of speech is constantly under
pressure as journalists face the possibility of imprisonment if they are to criticise the
application of Islamic law.
Gender equality is a problem at large as women’s rights are far from equal to those of
men, and they are affected by the shortcomings of the judicial system as they are jailed for
moral offences and adultery for the majority of the time.
The campaign to combat drug trafficking is at a standstill because of the unwillingness of the
local leaders to implement changes. Furthermore, the production of opium poppies is backed
by the Taliban.

On a more positive note, there have been improvements in the development front.
Although Afghanistan consistently ranks at the bottom of the Human Development Index,
many projects are underway, and a considerable amount of others have been successful.
Though economic development remains a daunting task, there have been significant
developments in Kabul and also in other regions. The UN has played a key role in emergency
aid provisions although there are huge setbacks due to the security situation. The United
Nations International Children’s and Education Fund (UNICEF) has been greatly successful
with its polio vaccination campaign. As of 2007, polio has been eradicated in the country and
the access to healthcare has greatly improved. Another one of UNICEF’s successes is in the
education area. Over seven million children are now attending school, one third of them
being girls, even though schools are a main target for militants. Since 2002, more than 4
million refugees have been able to come back to Afghanistan and resume their work of
farming after the removal of landmines from border areas, which covers thousands of square
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working on a program that will
create 15,000 job opportunities in the construction sector and the World Health Organization
(WHO) has set up programs to distribute vitamin supplements and medicines and to provide
mental health and family medicine services and anti-tuberculosis interventions. Other
projects focus on urban development (UNHABITAT), natural resources (Food and
Organization), and culture and the media (UNESCO).

Timeline of Key Events

1996 – The Taliban regime commences in Afghanistan.
2001 – Operation Enduring Freedom is launched.
2001 – The Taliban regime is overthrown by the invading U.S. and NATO forces.
2001 – The Bonn Agreement is made.
2002 – The Afghan Transitional Authority begins its duties.
2002 – UNAMA is established and regulates all UN action in Afghanistan.
2004 – The new Afghan Constitution is adopted.
2004 – Hamid Karzai becomes the first ever democratically elected president in Afghanistan.
2006 – Taliban attacks intensify all over the country, leading to deaths of many civilians.
2006 – The mandate of ISAF is extended from Kabul to the whole country.
2007 August - Opium production has soared to a record high, the UN reports.
2009 February - Up to 20 Nato countries pledge to increase military and other commitments
in Afghanistan after USA announces dispatch of 17,000 extra troops.
2009 March - President Barack Obama unveils a new US strategy for Afghanistan and
Pakistan to combat what he calls an increasingly perilous situation. An extra 4,000 US
personnel will train and bolster the Afghan army and police, and there will also be support for
civilian development.
2009 August - Presidential and provincial elections are held, but are marred by widespread
Taliban attacks, patchy turnout and claims of serious fraud.
2009 September - Leaked report by the commander of US forces, Gen Stanley McChrystal,
says the war against the Taliban could be lost within 12 months unless there are significant

increases in troop numbers.
2009 November - Hamid Karzai is sworn in for a second term as president.

Definition of Key Terms

NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organization: A military alliance that constitutes a system of
collective defence, which is put together by its Member States. It acts as a whole in case of an
attack from an external party. NATO is responsible for putting together the ISAF.

OEF – Operation Enduring Freedom: Military operation launched in 2001, which was headed
by the US and the ISAF. The operation originally took place in six different regions. Two of
these were complete in 2004. The rest of them are still underway, the one in Afghanistan
being the largest.

UIF – United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan: Was a party in the conflict, on
the side of the Coalition Forces, until it slowly dissolved. Its members became members of
newly established Afghan National Army.

ISAF – International Security Assistant Force: Military force put together by NATO, which
serve in Afghanistan. It is made up of forces from 40 different Member States, which make a
total of 50,700 armed personnel. Each member state’s army has its own base and region of

Bonn Agreement: A series of agreements made by Afghan leaders in UN auspices at Bonn.
The Bonn Agreement was a step of immediate action following the 2001 invasion, and made
decisions that would shape the future efforts to establish a democratic environment in

Loya Jirga: An Afghan “grand assembly” where community leaders come together and make
important decisions. The Jirga dates back in the ancient times, and was once used as a means
of choosing a new king. It convened in 2004 to adopt the new Afghan Constitution.

UNAMA – United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Has been set up by the
Security Council and has been active since 2002. All current UN action in the area is grouped
under UNAMA, which is active in areas such as: Disbandment of illegal armed groups,
future electoral processes, human rights, the administration of justice, capacity-building in
the ministries and Afghan institutions, governance, economic and social development,
counter-narcotics activities and gender equality.


The War in Afghanistan

Poltics in Afghanistan

The Taliban Insurgency


Operation Enduring Freedom

Northern Alliance

Human Security Report Project: Afghanistan Conflict Monitor

Report of the Security Council on Afghanistan

News article on the tribal divisions in Afghanistan

Report on Afghanistan: UN Intervention

Report on the Conflict in Afghanistan by Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Amnesty International Report on Human Rights in Afghanistan


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