The UN Security Council is due tomorrow to discuss the extension of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan -- known as UNAMA -- for an additional 12 months. A vote will be taken on Monday.
No one expects the extension to meet any resistance, but there are clear indications its mandate will be modified. Key issues include:
-- Modifying UNAMA's mandate to accurately reflect decisions adopted at the London Conference on Afghanistan in January -- specifically, the gradual assumption of leadership by Kabul.
-- Determining whether UNAMA should be taking part in the reconciliation and reintegration process with the Taliban and other government-opposed entities.
-- Strengthening UNAMA’s role in the coordination and distribution of civilian aid.
In his latest quarterly report on Afghanistan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hinted that the UN is ready to play a more active role in informal negotiations with the Taliban but that its participation "requires discretion and flexibility."
Louis Charbonneau of Reuters says some UN diplomats have expressed concern that the request for discretion may mean any information could be kept confidential and left out of formal UN briefings.
The major underlying problem for UNAMA is security. UNAMA relocated part of its staff outside Afghanistan after an attack on a UN compound in Kabul in October 2009 left five UN workers dead. Many of those staffers have now returned,
but the vacancy rate for positions with UNAMA remains very high and threatens the viability of its mission.
-- Nikola Krastev