Procedure : 2017/2932(RSP)
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Document selected : B8-0680/2017

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PV 14/12/2017 - 8.5
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to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

on the situation in Afghanistan (2017/2932(RSP))

Fabio Massimo Castaldo, Ignazio Corrao, Isabella Adinolfi, Rolandas Paksas on behalf of the EFDD Group

European Parliament resolution on the situation in Afghanistan (2017/2932(RSP))  

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the European Parliament and the Council of 24 July 2017 on elements for an EU strategy on Afghanistan,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 16 October 2017 on an EU strategy on Afghanistan,

–  having regard to Afghanistan’s national action plan on UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security,

–  having regard to UN Security Council resolution 2344 (2017) extending the mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan until 17 March 2018,

–  having regard to the UN Secretary-General’s regular reports on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security,

–  having regard to the Kabul process for Peace and Security Cooperation,

–  having regard to the Joint Way Forward on migration issues between Afghanistan and the EU,

–  having regard to the statement by the EU Spokesperson on the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan,

–  having regard to the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan,

–  having regard to the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development,

–  having regard to the appointment of the new EU Special Envoy to Afghanistan and his first visit in the country,

–  having regard to the NATO summits of July 2016 and June 2017,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas, despite some improvements, the situation in Afghanistan continues to be critical, with a deteriorating security situation, increasing insurgent and terrorist pressure and significant economic and political challenges; whereas this fragility is exacerbated by corruption, a weak rule of law and governance, illicit economic activities and the ongoing armed conflict;

B.  whereas the humanitarian situation remains deeply troubling, with civilians in particular suffering; whereas the recent report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has documented the highest number of casualties since 2009, with 11 318 civilian casualties in 2016, while from January 2017 to September 2017 casualties already amounted to 8 019; whereas both anti-government elements and pro-government forces have been found responsible for such casualties; whereas, as a result of intensified conflict, 600 000 people were displaced in 2016 and more than 280 000 in 2017, the majority of them being under 18 years old;

C.  whereas the security and humanitarian situation, coupled with a lack of economic perspective, has triggered increased irregular migration flows, with Afghans being the second-largest group of migrants to the EU in 2016; whereas the internal situation in Afghanistan is worsened by the return of over one million Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran, and whereas this is stretching government capacities and pressuring society even further;

D.  whereas the international community has reaffirmed its continued support to Afghanistan several times: at the NATO summit of 29 June 2017, where allies and partners reaffirmed their commitment until the end of 2020 and several allies announced increased troop contributions to the NATO Resolute Support Mission, and at the October 2016 Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, co-chaired by the EU and the Government of Afghanistan, where the international community ensured continued political support and pledged EUR 13.6 billion in financial support, including EUR 5 billion from the European Union and its Member States, making the EU as a whole the largest development cooperation partner in Afghanistan; whereas the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development of February 2017 confirmed the EU’s commitment to Afghanistan’s development;

E.  whereas the security situation in Afghanistan remains highly volatile, as the government and the Taliban continue to exchange territorial control, with casualties on both sides; whereas there is no tangible progress towards a peace process between the government and the Taliban;

F.  whereas the Taliban have recently unleashed a wave of attacks across Afghanistan, targeting police compounds and government facilities with suicide bombers, killing at least 74 people and injuring several hundred; whereas the indiscriminate and unlawful use of combined improvised explosive device tactics, particularly suicide bombs, is the main cause of civilian casualties;

G.  whereas the operations of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) remain mostly limited to eastern Afghanistan, but the group has claimed responsibility for a number of significant attacks nationwide and could consolidate its presence in Kunar Province and succeed in re-establishing operational capacity in areas of Nangarhar Province;

H.  whereas, despite the government’s efforts, Afghanistan remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world; whereas the level of corruption is particularly worrisome as weapons are being sold directly to the insurgents by corrupt officials of the national security forces and funds diverted from the humanitarian sector, thereby not reaching those in need;

I.  whereas one of the strongest concerns remains the continuous flow of weapons reaching the Taliban and other terrorist groups, financed by opium cultivation, smuggling, kidnapping, extortion against NGOs and illegal sales of minerals and historical antique pieces, as well from the siphoning off of foreign assistance aid entering the country;

J.  whereas the total area of opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 10 % in 2016 compared with the previous year, while production saw a 43 % increase, and the value of the illicit opiate economy was estimated at USD 3 billion in 2016;

K.  whereas the bilateral relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan has shown some signs of improved cooperation, as both countries have taken steps to improve relations, including the establishment of a crisis=control mechanism for emergency communications and a ministerial-level trilateral dialogue mechanism;

L.  whereas the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan has announced 7 July 2018 as the date for parliamentary and district council elections and has made progress on electoral preparations;

M.  whereas the Commission has announced that an additional EUR 5 million in humanitarian assistance will be provided to Afghanistan, bringing total EU humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in 2017 to EUR 30.5 million; whereas, overall, the EU will provide up to EUR 300 million a year in funding until 2020, including development assistance;

N.  whereas the recruitment and use of minors by all sides continues to be a serious issue, as UNAMA has verified the recruitment and use of 21 boys, including 15 by anti-government elements, and received reports of up to 50 boys being recruited by ISIL-KP and undergoing religious and military training in Ghor Province;

O.  whereas 2 568 strikes were carried out by the US in Afghanistan in 2017, reportedly killing dozens of civilians;

P.  whereas on 20 November 2017 the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested authorisation from the Court’s judges to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the armed conflict in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan since 1 May 2003; whereas the Prosecutor is also seeking permission to investigate alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan, are sufficiently linked to the situation and have been committed on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute since July 2002; whereas, given that Afghanistan is a State Party to the Rome Statute, the Court can exercise its jurisdiction over all alleged crimes committed on Afghan territory since May 2003, regardless of the nationality of the accused; whereas the information available provides a reasonable basis for believing that war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed by parties active in Afghanistan;

1.  Points out that, after nearly 40 years of conflict and 16 years of US and NATO-led intervention, Afghanistan has failed to achieve peace, security or sustainable development; points out that, despite the clear challenges, the country has improved in a number of fields, including the quality of and access to healthcare, basic education, women’s empowerment and life expectancy;

2.  Reiterates its commitment to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and to supporting the country’s sustainable development, and welcomes the Council’s adoption of the EU Strategy for Afghanistan as the pillar for future EU action;

3.  Expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the recent terror attacks: reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security; underlines the need to bring perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these acts to justice, and urges all states to cooperate actively with the Government of Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities in this regard;

4.  Condemns in the strongest terms all attacks targeting civilians, aid workers, Afghan and international forces, diplomatic and consular officials, as well as other representatives of the international community in Afghanistan;

5.  Notes with concern the significant increase in civilian casualties resulting from air strikes by pro-government forces and reminds all parties to the conflict of their responsibility to protect civilians during military operations, in accordance with their obligations pursuant to international humanitarian law and international human rights law; stresses the need for accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law;

6.  Notes the new US strategy in Afghanistan calling for a troop increase; stresses once again that the conflict has no military solution as peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the government and the Taliban, which must form part of an inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process; reaffirms its support for all initiatives to this end, such as the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation, and urges the EU to maintain its engagement at a high level; welcomes the appointment of a new EU special envoy to Afghanistan and his first visit to the country;

7.  Believes that NATO troops should strictly adhere to their advisory role, with a view to a withdrawal as soon as conditions allow;

8.  Is aware that a reconciliation process would need genuine political support by actors in the region; calls on all regional stakeholders to cooperate constructively in order to promote a genuine negotiation process aimed at creating a lasting settlement between the parties to the conflict, and calls on the Vice-President / High Representative to reach out to partners and parties worldwide and in the region, especially India and Pakistan, to promote an international and regional consensus over such a process; welcomes, in this regard, the Joint Statement issued at the 14th India-EU Summit of 6 October 2017;

9.  Stresses the importance of uncovering and shutting down the financial networks that the Taliban use to move money, and to cut-off the funding sources, smuggling networks and illicit activities that are used to fund their operations; calls for the strengthening of multilateral and regional cooperation in the fight against the illicit financing of terrorist groups and to close smuggling routes;

10.  Calls on the Afghan Government to continue to implement its agreed reform agenda, including anti-corruption laws, to improve its weapons-tracking systems, to promote accountability and to deepen the role of local governance structures, in particular where councils of tribal elders have been observed to be working with integrity and transparency;

11.  Welcomes the announcement of the July 2018 elections, which could play an important part in promoting the objective of democratic consolidation in Afghanistan; calls on the electoral institutions to broaden their outreach to all stakeholders in order to build public support for the elections; calls for an electoral reform process that aims at credible, inclusive and transparent elections; calls on every party to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric that has the potential to exacerbates social tensions and undermine the fragile political consensus represented by the Constitution; calls on all stakeholders to ensure that political dissent continues to be expressed peacefully and within the framework of the country’s constitutional and democratic processes;

12.  Stresses the growing role of women in defusing conflicts and preventing radicalisation in their communities, as well as their traditional peace-making role in Afghanistan; welcomes the increased representation of women on the Afghanistan High Peace Council, and the council’s new strategy that recognises the crucial and active role of women; calls on the EU to continue to support Afghanistan in the implementation of the national action plan for UNSC Resolution 1325 (2000) and other relevant programmes; calls for the incorporation of the law on the elimination of violence against women into penal legislation;

13.  Reiterates that young people are the future of the country, and is extremely worried by reports about children being recruited by the Taliban, trained in madrasas and deployed in various military operations, including the production and planting of IEDs; reminds all parties that sending armed forces personnel under the age of 18 to war zones violates international law applicable in Afghanistan and, in cases involving children under 15, is a war crime according to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to the Rome Statute; calls on the government to take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalise such practices, and to take all feasible measures to ensure the protection and care of children affected by armed conflict; calls on the Government to draft and adopt a comprehensive child act and a national action plan on child protection;

14.  Laments that, despite being a de facto agreement with a third party providing a clear framework for cooperation on forced return and readmission to Afghanistan, the Joint Way Forward on migration issues between Afghanistan and the EU has not been submitted to Parliament for consent and that Parliament has not been informed or consulted at any stage of the procedure; calls on the Commission to comply with the procedures as laid down in the Treaties, and to fully inform, consult and involve Parliament with regard to the Joint Way Forward agreement; calls for the EU and its Member States to ensure that cooperation in the field of migration with the countries of origin of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees complies fully with their obligations under international and European human rights and refugee law, and does not directly or indirectly contribute to human rights violations;

15.  Stresses the importance of anti-radicalisation, deradicalisation and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration initiatives and of mobilising local communities and civil society to counter violent extremism, and calls on NATO and the EU to support such initiatives; believes in the importance of small, local projects to engage local religious actors, develop local anti-extremism messages and build dialogue across communities, thus preventing radicalisation at an early stage;

16.  Highlights the importance of culture and education in developing national cohesion, and laments that more than 3.5 million children – a third of Afghan children, most of them girls – were not in school at the start of the school year in March; believes that the introduction of peacebuilding, conflict resolution and mediation in school curricula could help empower young Afghans and, by providing practical skills in identifying sources of conflict and knowing how to de-escalate tensions and negotiate peaceful solutions, give the next generation an opportunity to break out of the cycles of violence;

17.  Calls on the Afghan Government to focus seriously on upholding the rule of law, ensuring justice and prioritising measures to protect citizens’ rights as an organised strategy; calls on the international community as a whole to support Afghanistan in fulfilling its commitments to reform its judicial system, including by developing a nationally-owned transitional justice process addressing impunity; calls for improved coordination between state and tribal dispute resolution systems; is convinced that greater transparency, accountability and citizen participation in the judicial and legislative process could be helpful in ensuring a more just and transparent system;

18.  Is convinced that the resilience of societies, like that of human development, is ultimately related to the ability of a system to ensure the economic prospects of the population, particularly its young people; supports the implementation of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework, as well as the reinforcing of the private sector, of agriculture and of the sustainable exploitation and management of natural resources;

19.  Notes the ICC prosecutor’s request for permission to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides in Afghanistan since May 2003; calls, if such authorisation is granted, for a fair, transparent, objective and independent investigation to be conducted, with the aim of holding those responsible for such crimes accountable, no matter who the perpetrators are, thus ensuring equality before the law and preventing such crimes from happening again;

20.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and the Parliament of Afghanistan.


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