Security concerns force 600 UN workers out of Afghanistan

UN-LOGO

United Nations

After the recent spate of attacks and heightened security concerns the UN announced its decision to temporarily relocate 600 members of its international foreign staff based in Afghanistan. The international body also said that the personnel would return to work once the security of the areas accommodating the staff is beefed up.

The body also said that the humanitarian work like aid distribution would not have a setback in light of the UN decision as it is handled by the local staff members. In the recent attack on Bekhtar guesthouse in the Shar-i-Naw district last Wednesday, which was deadliest attack on UN since fall of Taliban regime in 2001, five UN workers and three Afghans were killed.

In a Kabul news conference on Thursday, Kai Eide, the head of the UN’s Afghan mission, said some of the staff – mostly “non-frontline” personnel – would be moved within the country, others outside.

We are not talking about pulling out and we are not talking about evacuation,” the Norwegian diplomat said.

The temporary relocation of staff was likely to take three to four weeks, the UN said.

The UN had also halted a long-term development work this Monday, citing security concerns, in north-western Pakistan bordering Afghanistan which is viewed as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.

Among the 5600-strong workforce in Afghanistan 1300 are international workers and are located in different Afghan cities.

Mr Eide told the BBC later: “It’s quite clear that the security situation for our staff has become much more complex over the last year.

But he said the Taliban would not succeed in driving the UN out of Afghanistan, in the same way it was forced from Iraq six years ago after a suicide truck bombing on a UN compound killed a top envoy and more than 20 others.

We will certainly continue our work, but we are taking the measures in order to do so and we are enhancing our security,” said Mr Eide.

Hamid Karzai

Pres. Hamid Karzai

The security scenario has taken a severe beating recently despite the presence of more than 100,000 Nato-led troops, including about 68,000 Americans. While the US President Barack Obama is currently deliberating a request from the US commander in Afghanistan for another 40,000 troops the recent spate of attacks and UN “temporary” retreat makes the issue more complex.

Amidst calls for radical changes in the functioning of Afghan government and wiping out corruption the international community keeps a close watch on the newly re-constituted Afghan government under President Karzai.

I do believe it’s understood that serious reforms are needed, and I believe that reforms will come as a new government is formed,”

Mr. Eide said.“It’s up to the president to compose his government. We have seen new competent ministers coming in, and it has had an impact,” he continued. “What we have said to President Karzai is, ‘You have some competent people, and you need more of them.

Source: nytimes.com

The UN had last month fired its No. 2 official in Afghanistan, Peter W. Galbraith, an U.S. diplomat, after he wrote a scathing letter which accused Mr. Eide of concealing election fraud that benefited President Karzai. UN General Secretary Ban ki-Moon had pulled out Mr. Galbraith while reaffirming his belief in him.

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