1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 68/11 and Security Council resolution 2274 (2016), in which I was requested to report every three months on developments in Afghanistan.
2. The report provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including significant humanitarian, development and human rights efforts, since the issuance of my report of 10 June 2016 (A/70/924-S/2016/532). It also provides a summary of key political and security developments and regional and international events relating to Afghanistan.
II. Relevant developments
3. Increased tensions between the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and the Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, persistent security challenges and rising pressure from political opposition groups contributed to growing volatility. The Parliament confirmed two key appointments, for Minister of Defence and Director of National Security, ensuring a full roster of security-related cabinet officials for the first time since its establishment almost two years ago. Afghanistan secured international funding for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces through 2020. The security forces were heavily tested across the country amid ongoing clashes with the Taliban which generated civilian casualties at the highest level since the United Nations began systematic documentation in 2009 and fresh displacements. Meanwhile, the prospects for a possible peace process with the Taliban remained limited. The Government continued its preparations for the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, to be held on 5 October 2016, including the Afghan National Peace and Development Framework. Tangible gains were achieved in implementing the anti-corruption agenda.
A. Political developments
4. Tensions within the Government increased significantly during the reporting period. On 11 August, the Chief Executive publicly voiced criticisms of what he viewed as insufficient consultations by the President on key appointments and as incomplete implementation of the agreement establishing the National Unity Government. The appointments included that of the former Independent Election Commission Chair, Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, as Ambassador to Spain, and that of the Presidential Senior Adviser on Strategic Communications, Nader Naderi, as head of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, announced on 9 July and 9 August, respectively. The two leaders met on 17 August in order for the concerns of the Chief Executive to be heard. Further meetings are expected.
5. Before the political rift between the President and the Chief Executive, the Government faced increasingly public challenges from political opposition leaders claiming that the agreement establishing the National Unity Government would expire in September 2016, two years after its signing on 21 September 2014 and absent electoral reforms, parliamentary and district council elections and the convening of a loya jirga to adopt constitutional amendments. They included the former President, Hamid Karzai, and a prominent member of the opposition Afghanistan Protection and Stability Council, Omar Daudzai, who both stressed the need for a loya jirga.
6. There were a number of public protests during the reporting period that drew the participation of opposition figures. On 22 July, a demonstration in Khost Province involved a reported 7,000 protestors, who called for the dissolution of the Government and the holding of a loya jirga to appoint a new one. On 23 July, ethnic Hazara demonstrated in the city of Kabul against the routing of an electricity infrastructure project. When the march was targeted by two suicide bombers, killing 73 civilians and injuring 293, the subsequent condolence ceremony on 25 July drew former President Karzai and several other former government officials. The site became an assembly point for those protesting against the Government. On 29 July, the leaders of the demonstration of 23 July issued a statement, pledging to hold further protests should their demands not be met by the Government.
7. There were protests from 27 July to 6 August in Faryab, Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces on issues relating to government performance, lack of security and official appointments. On 1 August, ethnic Tajik activists threatened to hold protests and stage a ceremonial reburial on 1 September of a Tajik leader who was briefly in power in 1929. The activists received support from the Chief Executive; the former Minister of the Interior, Zarar Ahmad Moqbel Osmani; and the acting Governor of Balkh Province, Mohammad Atta Nur.
8. Armed groups claiming association with government officials who have strong powerbases in the north, particularly those affiliated with the Junbish-i Milli and Jamiat-e Islami political parties, continued to contribute to insecurity. On 26 June, following accusations of human rights abuses in Faryab Province by militias claiming loyalty to the Junbish-i Milli party, President Ghani ordered an investigation and instructed the Junbish leader, the First Vice-President, Abdul Rashid Dostum, to halt his military operations and return to the city of Kabul.