Afghan strife makes UN relocate
The UN says it will temporarily relocate 600 of its international foreign staff based in Afghanistan. The personnel would return to work once security had been boosted at unsecured accommodation used by the UN, it said.
The transfer would not affect work such as aid delivery, as this was done by local Afghan staff, the UN added. The move follows a dawn raid by the Taliban last week on a hostel in the capital, Kabul, which left five UN workers and three Afghans dead.
The attack on the private Bekhtar guesthouse in the Shar-i-Naw district last Wednesday was the deadliest on the UN in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. On Monday, also citing security concerns, the UN halted long-term development work in north-western Pakistan, a region on the border with Afghanistan that is widely regarded as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.
In a Kabul news conference on Thursday, Kai Eide, the head of the UN’s Afghan mission, said some of the staff – mostly “non-front line” personnel – would be moved within the country, some 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 has up to 1,300 international staff – out of a workforce of about 5,600 – based in Afghanistan. The personnel to be moved come from all UN agencies and different Afghan cities.
Meanwhile, British forces are continuing to hunt the Afghan policeman who shot dead five UK soldiers on Tuesday in Helmand. They are investigating whether the gunman – who opened fire in a compound where the UK troops had been mentoring Afghan police – is linked to the Taliban.
In the guesthouse raid last week, UN employees tried to flee as three heavily armed Taliban militants hiding explosive vests under police uniforms attacked.The three gunmen were shot dead. The hostel – which had been used by the UN and other international organisations – was gutted by fire.
Foreign officials have warned that the Kabul government’s reputation for corruption and the recent crisis surrounding the fraud-marred presidential election are fuelling the Taliban insurgency. Security has continued to deteriorate, despite the presence of more than 100,000 Nato-led troops, including about 68,000 Americans.
US President Barack Obama is currently considering a request from the US commander in Afghanistan for another 40,000 troops. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month announced 500 extra British soldiers would be sent.