Documents considered by the Committee on 18 June 2014 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


5 EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decision Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested
Document details Joint Communication: Elements for an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16
Legal base
Department Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Summary and Committee's conclusions

5.1 This Commission/High Representative Joint Communication outlines the key elements for a future EU strategy for Afghanistan. It covers the political context as well as the key objectives and initiatives upon which the EU would seek to focus on in support of the Government of Afghanistan.

5.2 The strategy focuses on four key areas, with critical sub-objectives:

·  Promoting peace and security;

·  Reinforcing democracy;

·  Encouraging economic and human development; and

·  Fostering the rule of law and respect for human rights.

5.3 The Commission/High Representative acknowledge that, even in the most optimistic scenario, Afghanistan will continue to be a fragile state, dependent on international financial assistance and prone to outbreaks of violent conflict. The central government will need to mitigate the threats posed by the insurgency, corruption and the criminalisation of the state — in particular from drug money — and maintain security and service delivery in sparsely populated rural areas, if it is to retain credibility and popular support. Strengthening democratic and accountable governance in Afghanistan at all levels will determine the credibility and success of the transition, as much as will strengthening the capability of the security forces. Though a long-term, generational task, progress in the next three years can both prevent backsliding and provide an important foundation for further advances in years to come. Afghanistan will face severe economic contraction if the government is unable to generate the necessary confidence to attract investment and stem capital flight as the international presence and assistance contracts reduce. In particular, there is the need to create jobs for some 400,000 Afghans entering the workforce each year. If this demand is not met, there is a risk of a new generation of underemployed and alienated youth, which may lead to an increased pool for insurgent recruitment and uncontrolled and illegal immigration to neighbouring countries and Europe.

5.4 The Commission/High Representative also note:

"The strategic goal and objectives have been developed in advance of clarity on the size and scale of any international military presence post-2014. Expectations as to the degree of progress and the delivery of international assistance in support of the Government of Afghanistan's priorities in the event of a very limited international presence will necessarily have to be tempered."

5.5 This latter point is one highlighted in the January 2014 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions. The US/Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) provides the legal underpinning for any US military presence in Afghanistan post-2014. Last month, President Obama announced that 9,800 US troops would remain in Afghanistan in 2015, reducing to roughly half by the end of that year; and that by the end of 2016, troop numbers would draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component. However, this US proposal remains contingent on signature of the BSA between the US and Afghanistan; negotiations are ongoing.

5.6 We understand that the current text of the BSA has provided the first draft of NATO's equivalent Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Afghanistan, which will provide the legal framework for a post 2014 NATO mission; that the Government is still working with allies (some of whom are EU Member States) on it plans following the US announcement; and that the National Security Council will decide what the UK's specific post-2014 military commitment will be in due course (in addition to the £70 million the UK has already committed to funding the Afghan National Security Forces.)

5.7 The January 2014 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions also said that the Government of Afghanistan must meet its commitments under the TMAF for Afghanistan to benefit fully from the funds committed by the international community.[11] The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) agreed in May 2012, establishes the mutual commitments of the Government of Afghanistan and the International Community to help Afghanistan achieve its development and governance goals. At the Tokyo Conference in 2012, the International Community pledged to improve aid effectiveness and provide US$16 billion to Afghanistan in development assistance through 2015-17, to respond to Afghanistan's predicted budget shortfall following military transition. In return, the Government of Afghanistan committed to economic and governance reforms, including holding credible elections, tackling corruption, improving financial transparency and promoting human rights, including the rights of women and girls.  Both the Afghans and the International Community understand that it is crucial to sustain momentum and keep progress on track.

5.8  In January 2014, the Afghan Government and the international community met to review progress made against the different objectives set out in the TMAF. It was agreed that sustained action over the long term was needed to transform the status and rights of women and immediate action needed to ensure that the Afghan Human Rights Commission retained its category A status. There was also a call for the Afghans to move forward and agree key economic enablers, specifically passing through Parliament, VAT and Anti-Money Laundering laws. These are yet to be signed.

5.9 In the meantime, both the people of Afghanistan and the International Community await the official results of the run-off in the Afghan presidential election, which was held on the weekend of 14-15 June. According to The Guardian:

"Facing off are former mujahideen doctor Abdullah Abdullah and World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani. Both are modernising nationalists who have teamed up with civil war-era strongmen, a bid to broaden their support base that may also have alienated young voters seeking change."[12]

5.10 Thus, though there is nothing controversial about the elements for an EU Strategy proposed by the Commission/High Representative, there is a host of uncertainties surrounding the essentials for its successful implementation. In addition to those outlined above, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) also mentions two key events later this year: a "NATO Summit" and "the Development Conference", which he says will look closely at the international community's future commitments in Afghanistan.

5.11 We accordingly judge that it would be appropriate to debate the Joint Communication — but not until the Strategy itself has been agreed (which the Minister says will fall to the 23 June Foreign Affairs Council) and we all know who is to be the new President of Afghanistan. We would therefore like the Minister to write to us in due course, with:

—   a copy of the Strategy;

—  his thoughts on the outcome of the Presidential election;

—  more details concerning the dates, location and nature of the two key events to which he refers; and

—  an update on the BSA with Afghanistan, NATO's equivalent SOFA, and the National Security Council's consideration of the UK's specific post-2014 military commitment.

5.12 In the meantime, we shall retain the Joint Communication under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council — Elements for an EU Strategy in Afghanistan 2014-16: (35996), 9467/14, JOIN(14)17.

Background

5.13 The Afghan Government and the International Community met on 8 July 2012 in Tokyo "to reaffirm and further consolidate their partnership from Transition to the Transformation Decade." The Tokyo Conference, together with the Chicago Summit of Afghanistan and ISAF contributing countries of May 2012, established what the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs described as:

"a renewed stronger foundation for partnership to support sustainable growth and development of Afghanistan throughout the Transformation Decade (2015-2024). These undertakings are built on the outcome of the Bonn Conference in December 2011, where the Afghan Government and the International Community mutually renewed their long-term commitments in the areas of governance, security, peace process, economic and social development, and regional cooperation, as well as on the outcomes of the previous international conferences such as the London Conference in January 2010 and the Kabul Conference in July 2010. Chaired by the Japanese and Afghan Governments with the participation of ministers and representatives from 55 countries and 25 international and other organizations from around the world, today's conference also recognized the increasing roles of new partners and neighboring and regional countries for the sustainable development of Afghanistan."

5.14 Paragraphs 2-4 of the Tokyo Declaration continues thus:

2.  "Since the landmark Tokyo Conference of January 2002, with the steadfast and strong support of the International Community, financial and otherwise, Afghanistan has achieved substantial development and made notable progress in many fields of development, including education, health, roads, electricity, and telecommunication, as illustrated at the symposium hosted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on July 6, 2012 in Tokyo. Building on the long-held aspiration of the Afghan people, Afghanistan has laid down the foundations of the democratic system of government, including the promulgation of its new Constitution, enshrining a commitment to pluralism and human rights, in particular the equal rights of women; and the development of increasingly active civil society and vibrant and open media.

3.  "However, much remains to be done to realize the aspirations of the Afghan people for a peaceful, stable and self-sustaining Afghanistan. With support from the International Community, Afghanistan will continue its progress on such issues as security, with a focus on terrorism and counter-narcotics, poverty reduction, humanitarian needs, provision of basic social services, food security, protection of human rights in particular the rights of women and children, respect for individual dignity, promotion of education and culture, improvement of governance, reducing corruption, lessening reliance on international assistance, and promotion of private investment, thereby contributing to human security.

4.  "At the Bonn Conference, Afghanistan and the International Community shared a vision for long-term partnership to help Afghanistan attain sustainable economic growth and development and fiscal self-reliance from Transition through the Transformation Decade. Today in Tokyo, the Afghan Government and the International Community succeeded in transforming their mutual commitments made in Bonn to cooperate throughout the Transformation Decade into a solid and credible framework focused on the priorities of the Afghan Government as contained in its strategy paper Towards Self-Reliance. At today's Conference, Afghanistan and the International Community established the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (hereinafter the 'Tokyo Framework'), which underpins our partnership for the Transformation Decade." [13]

5.15 The January 2014 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions begin thus:

"1. 2014 is a critical year for Afghanistan in which all Afghans should have the opportunity to participate in making the fundamental decisions that will determine the immediate future of the country.

"2. The European Union remains firmly committed to long-term partnership with Afghanistan. The Council called on the Government of Afghanistan to reciprocate that commitment by finalising negotiations on the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD). The text should fully reflect Afghanistan's international obligations. Sustained development will require the maintenance of security. With that in mind, the finalisation of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States of America is vital and will provide the basis for ongoing international support to increase the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces. The continued provision of significant international development assistance to the Afghan people across the country is dependent on a conducive security environment.

"3. For Afghanistan to fully benefit from the funds committed by the international community at the Tokyo Conference in 2012, the Government of Afghanistan must meet its commitments under the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF)."

5.16 Based on guidance in its January 2014 Conclusions, the Foreign Affairs Council invited the High Representative and the Commission, to present a proposal for a strategy to the end of 2016. The Council specified that the strategy should:

·  encompass a comprehensive approach and the mutual commitments identified in the TMAF and the draft CAPD;

·  include an implementation plan that specifies deliverable outcomes;

·  ensure synergy between the various instruments; and

·  establish a clear, coordinated division of labour amongst the EU and Member States, working in close cooperation with Afghan partners, the UN, NATO and other stakeholders.

5.17 In the longer term, the Council says, the EU and Member States will look to adopt a joint programming approach that will further strengthen coordination and results.

5.18 The strategy should be ready for endorsement by the second quarter of 2014.[14]

5.19 Against this background, the Joint Communication provides a strategic framework to better coordinate EU and Member States' civilian engagement in Afghanistan from mid-2014 to 2016, setting out the EU's objectives for the years 2014-16 and outlining the interventions planned to achieve those objectives. The strategy focuses on four key areas, each of which has a number of critical sub-objectives:

·  Promoting peace and security;

·  Reinforcing democracy;

·  Encouraging economic and human development; and

·  Fostering the rule of law and respect for human rights.[15]

5.20 The Commission/High Representative acknowledge that firm predictions about Afghanistan in 2016 are difficult to make:

"It is clear that Afghans will increasingly take control of their affairs over the coming three years. International influence will reduce. Even in the most optimistic scenario, Afghanistan will continue to be a fragile state with some of the lowest human development indicators globally, dependent on international financial assistance and prone to outbreaks of violent conflict. The central government will need to mitigate the threats posed by the insurgency, corruption and the criminalisation of the state — in particular from drug money — and maintain security and service delivery in sparsely populated rural areas, if it is to retain credibility and popular support."

5.21 In sum, the Commission/High Representative say:

"The credibility and success of the transition depend as much on strengthening democratic and accountable governance in Afghanistan at all levels, as on the capability of the security forces. This is a long-term, generational task, but progress in the next three years can both prevent backsliding and provide an important foundation for further advances in years to come. There is a major risk that Afghanistan will face severe economic contraction if the government is unable to generate the necessary confidence to attract investment and stem capital flight as the international presence and assistance contracts reduce. In particular, there is the need to create jobs for some 400 000 Afghans entering the workforce each year. If this demand is not met, there is a risk of a new generation of underemployed and alienated youth, which may lead to an increased pool for insurgent recruitment and uncontrolled and illegal immigration to neighbouring countries and Europe."

5.22 The Commission/High Representative also note that the strategy:

"The strategic goal and objectives have been developed in advance of clarity on the size and scale of any international military presence post-2014. Expectations as to the degree of progress and the delivery of international assistance in support of the Government of Afghanistan's priorities in the event of a very limited international presence will necessarily have to be tempered."

The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 11 June 2014

5.23 The Minister for Europe describes the Joint Communication as consistent with the priorities set out and agreed by the January 2014 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions. Importantly, he says, "it reflects well the current views of the UK and wider international community on how best to engage in Afghanistan, now and beyond 2014".

5.24 The Minister continues his comments as follows:

"It continues to be a challenging time for Afghanistan. The country is in the midst of a complex political transition and despite progress, security remains a challenge and the economic situation fragile. The Joint Communication highlights the political context behind the proposed strategy and the work necessary to address the key challenges in Afghanistan.

"In acknowledging these challenges it is vital that over the next three years, the EU working alongside key international partners, has a strategy to direct its activity in Afghanistan. We support this effort, which means bringing together the collective weight of the EU's diplomatic community to engage the Government of Afghanistan. The Joint Communication indicates this will include both financial and technical support across many areas, to ensure that the gains made over the last decade in Afghanistan are not lost. We have seen this work extremely well recently with our combined efforts in supporting electoral process.

"The Joint Communication accurately describes the opportunities of a new EU civilian strategy, principally the chance for the EU and Member States to adopt a comprehensive and cohesive approach to meet the challenges over the next 3 years. The four key areas indentified in the strategy are the right areas for the EU to focus its engagement over the next 3 years and where it can have the most impact.

"We acknowledge, as does the Joint Communication, that the work of the EU will be constrained by the tough security environment. In seeking to reach agreement on the proposed strategy, the UK will continue to press for sensible and realistic outcomes. We also recognise that much of the important and necessary work needed to achieve our aims in Afghanistan are already taking place. There are fora such as the EU Heads of Mission meeting in Kabul which meets frequently to coordinate messaging, drives implementation and keeps record of whether shared commitments are on track. Our message on process for delivery, throughout this process and with colleagues in Afghanistan, will be to continue in the same positive vein.

"The Joint Communication sensibly highlights that the strategy will need to be sufficiently flexible to adapt to developments on the ground and, importantly, the policies and priorities set by a new Afghan Government later this year. There will also be two key events later this year (NATO Summit and the Development Conference) which will look closely at the international community's future commitments in Afghanistan.

"In helping to shape the proposed strategy, the UK will continue to urge prioritisation and better coordination with our international partners and other multilateral organisation (NATO and United Nations) engaged in Afghanistan, to avoid duplicity and guarantee a genuinely unified approach. Any strategy must give weight to the importance of these relationships."

5.25 The Minister concludes by noting that:

"The EU and Member States are still working through the details of a strategy but expect the document to be finalised and ready for endorsement at the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 June 2014."

Previous Committee Reports

None; but see (36033) —: Second Report HC 219-ii (2014-15), chapter 11 (11 June 2014).


11   The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF) agreed in May 2012, establishes the mutual commitments of the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to help Afghanistan achieve its development and governance goals. Back

12   See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/14/afghanistan-votes-election-taliban-threat Back

13   See http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/middle_e/afghanistan/tokyo_conference_2012/tokyo_declaration_en1.html for further information. Back

14   Available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/140656.pdf. Back

15   See pp.5-8 of the Joint Communication: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52014JC0017&from=en Back


 
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