Afghanistan

UN's top refugee chief works to prepare for more Afghan returns

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Security concerns are still impacting the return of exiled Afghans to their homeland, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the press in Kabul today.
Reporting on his talks with factional leaders in Mazar-i-Sharif, Ruud Lubbers said "we were very successful" in addressing key issues.

Given the influence of leaders in the northern region, he emphasized that they must "take responsibility personally to go after local commanders" when necessary.

Mr. Lubbers pointed out that "there is a win-win situation that they discipline their own local commanders" as this will lead to "more prosperous development of the northern part of Afghanistan."

Looking to the broader national context, he acknowledged that "we cannot say that the situation is perfect in the remainder of Afghanistan" and stressed that factional leaders throughout the country must take control of local commanders.

The High Commissioner's agency expects to return 1.2 million refugees and 300,000 internally displaced Afghans to their homes this year. The effort will cost an estimated $195 million, but so far only $16 million has been received.

"We need money," Mr. Lubbers said, adding that he will soon send a strong letter to donors soliciting funds to cover the "substantial" budget gap.