Starting in the mid-1990s, after nearly two decades of civil war, the Taliban took control of much of Afghanistan, providing a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the Taliban’s refusal to hand over Bin Laden, the U.S., partially backed by the international community, responded with military action.
In October 2001, the U.S. and its allies launched a bombing campaign against the Taliban. With the assistance of Afghan forces, U.S.-led troops removed the Taliban from power within weeks, In December 2001, at a UN-led conference in Bonn, Germany, Afghan leaders began reconstructing their nation’s government, agreeing to a framework for political transition. The Bonn Agreement also called for a UN presence to help stabilize the country and support this transition. In response to this request, the UN Security Council voted to establish the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), to focus on political and humanitarian affairs, and authorized the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which had a security-centered mandate. ISAF’s mandate expired on December 31, 2014, at which point Afghan security forces formally assumed full responsibility for security in their country.
Since UNAMA’s establishment, Afghanistan has made important strides towards completing its political transition process. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held in 2004-2005, for the first time in more than 30 years. Unfortunately, these signs of progress have been in part overshadowed by the growth of the Taliban and violence against civilians, expanded opium cultivation and trafficking, government corruption, and continued humanitarian and development challenges.
Now that security control has formally been handed over to Afghan forces, the government will face greater responsibility for the nation’s security and political affairs, particularly during Afghanistan’s “Transformation Decade” from 2015-2025. With Taliban-led violence already rising in response, 2015 marks a critical juncture in Afghanistan’s transition process: rendering UNAMA’s political, humanitarian, and development efforts as important as ever.