Global Policy Forum

UN Discusses Possible Return to Afghanistan

UN Wire
January 25, 1999

Afghans are coping with winter with little UN aid.

The head of the United Nations humanitarian aid programme for Afghanistan, Erick de Mul, been meeting senior Taliban officials in Kandahar to discuss the possible return of UN aid staff to the country.

All expatriate UN personnel were pulled out last August after the fatal shooting of an Italian UN military observer in Kabul and the killing of two Afghan UN staff in Jalalabad.

Mr de Mul, who has now returned to his base in Islamabad, said the senior Taleban spokesman, Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, told him the Taliban also wants UN expatriate staff to return as soon as possible.

Security fears

The BBC's Kabul Correspondent, William Reeve, says the main stumbling block has been the question of security for foreign UN staff if and when they do return.

The UN and the Taliban signed a security accord last year in which the Taliban promised to provide satisfactory reports on their investigations into the death of the Italian military observer, Colonel Calo, in August last year and the deaths of two Afghan UN employees in Jalalabad in July. The shooting came a day after a US cruise missile attack on a training camp in Afghanistan allegedly linked to dissident Saudi billionaire Osama bin Ladin. This issue has still not been been fully resolved.

Technical team to follow

But according to Mr de Mul, the Taliban has spoken to Colonel Calo's family, who are said not to want any retribution for his death. Under Islamic Sharia law, the Taliban therefore say they view the case is almost settled.

Mr de Mul said the Taliban insisted that no order for Colonel Calo's death came from the Taliban leadership.

He said that the UN will send a technical team next week to Kabul and also to Jalalabad to look into these cases with the Taliban.

For general security in the long term, Mr de Mul said the Taliban assured him there should be no problem and said they would nominate his five security liaison officers to deal with any issues as they arose.

During the rest of his talks in Kandahar, Mr de Mul said he had discussed the need for mutual respect of principles, both of the Taliban and the UN.

Once the UN technical team has visited Kabul and Jalalabad, a decision will then be made if and when UN expatriate staff do indeed come to Afghanistan to carry on their work.

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