Afghanistan

United Nations staff withdrawn from Kandahar

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The United Nations withdrew all international staff from Kandahar, Afghanistan, on the evening of 28 March. The five staff represented the Office of the United Nations Co-ordinator, WFP, UNHCR, WHO, and UNDCP. A special United Nations flight was dispatched to Kandahar for their evacuation from the area.
On 26 March, armed Taliban entered a number of United Nations premises, allegedly in search of escapees. United Nations representatives in Kandahar met with representatives of the Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protest these actions. The local authorities apologised and gave reassurances that these actions would not be repeated. The United Nations accepted the apology and continued with its humanitarian work on behalf of the Afghan people. However, on 27 March, armed Taliban again forced their way into United Nations premises; property was damaged, and staff were intimidated.

These actions are clear violations of United Nations immunity and of formal agreements between the United Nations and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan signed in May 1998. Given the seriousness and the repetition of these violations of United Nations immunity, the United Nations has been compelled to stop work in the area in the interests and safety of United Nations staff. Specifically, the United Nations has withdrawn international staff, cancelled all missions to the area, closed United Nations offices in Kandahar, and ceased all United Nations assistance activities in southern region.

Before resuming operations in southern Afghanistan, the United Nations seeks a reaffirmation from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan that the security protocols will be respected.

After withdrawing from Afghanistan in August 1998 following the killing of a UN staff member in Kabul, the United Nations began to re-engage beginning in March 1999. Since that time, the scale of humanitarian assistance in southern Afghanistan has steadily increased due to the vulnerability of the population. The United Nations remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of southern Afghanistan. Important UN programmes in the area include a major WFP emergency food assistance programme for 200,000 people, joint UN projects aimed at alleviating the effects of the widespread drought, repatriation to southern Afghanistan, and medical assistance including preparations for this year's National Immunisation Days to eradicate polio.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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