x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Top UN delegation visits Afghanistan

A Security Council delegation arrives in Kabul to push for regional co-operation as it examines the situation on the ground.

KABUL // A UN Security Council delegation arrived in Kabul today to push for regional co-operation as it takes stock of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, the world body said in a statement. Among the 15-member delegation is Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born US ambassador to the UN, who is often mentioned as a possible candidate in next year's presidential elections in Afghanistan. Mr Khalilzad, who served as US ambassador to Afghanistan following the 2001 US invasion, has said he does not plan to run.

The delegation will "underscore the importance of regional co-operation for governance, security, and development," a UN statement said. It will have three days of meetings with top Afghan and international officials. "An additional aim of their trip is to underline the role of the United Nations in promoting peace and stability," the statement said. The visit comes as Afghanistan has faced records level of violence. US officials have said their forces have seen a 30 per cent increase in attacks this year compared with 2007.

Since the ouster of the Taliban's regime from power following the 2001 invasion, the UN has been tasked with leading the civilian effort for the international community. The UN Security Council also legitimised the presence of some 65,000 Nato-led and US-led troops, who are involved in daily battles with insurgents, mainly in the country's south and east. Despite major achievements in Afghanistan, such as getting some six million children - including two million girls - into school, and the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections, the Taliban has bounced back.

It now heads an insurgency that threatens the president's government and the entire international effort to transform the country. Neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are seen as key in tackling the insurgency. Pakistan is particularly important because of its relations with the Taliban when it was in power, and allegations that elements of its intelligence service still support some insurgent groups that use Pakistan's lawless tribal areas to launch attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

*AP