[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
UN closes office in Kandahar
International staff sent to Afghan capital due to "deteriorating security situation".
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2010 13:29 GMT
Nato forces are preparing for an
offensive around Kandahar beginning in June [AFP]

The United Nations has temporarily shut its office in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar due to security concerns.

Al Jazeera has learned that the UN made the move on Tuesday in response to a specific threat issued by the Taliban, although a UN spokesman said it was because of a deteriorating security situation.

The UN has now pulled back its international staff from Kandahar to the capital, Kabul, and has told its Afghan employees to stay at home for the next few days.

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Kabul, said: "In the last 24 hours there have been three bomb blasts in the southern city.

"Al Jazeera understands that there was a specific threat against the UN in Kandahar.

"That at a local mosque near the UN headquarters in the city the Taliban went to the local cleric there and told him to warn residents living around the UN headquarters that they should leave their homes because there was about to be an attack on the UN."

Nato offensive

Bays said that when the UN and Afghan forces learned of the threat, they reduced the number of their international staff in Kandahar.

The UN maintained about 40 international staff in Kandahar about a year ago. Now the number is fewer than 10, all of whom have currently been withdrawn.

In depth

 Blogs: James Bays on the UN exodus 
 Blogs: Jonah Hull on a grim awakening
 Video: UN staff killed in Kabul
 Riz Khan: Eight years of war

Our correspondent said the withdrawal of the UN staff is under review. But he said that their return to the office is unlikely until after a planned offensive by Nato forces in June to take control of the area around the city.

However, Ahmad Wali Karzai, a top Afghan official in Kandahar province and the half brother of Hamid Karzai, the president, played down the threat to the UN and said the UN was over-reacting by withdrawing its staff.

Karzai said that the security situation in Kandahar was far worse a few years ago, and he urged the international aid community not to scale back operations in the city.

"We strongly condemn this act by the UN to pull out of Kandahar," he said.

"This is an irrational decision [done] without consulting with local authorities.

"The situation is not as bad as the UN views it. They aren't here for a party. They know they are in a war zone. This move will leave a bad impression on citizens of Kandahar."

New Taliban strategy

But Khalid Pashtoon, an Afghan member of parliament, told Al Jazeera: "In Kandahar the situation has been deteriorating for the last few weeks due to the forthcoming Nato operation.

"The Taliban is starting a new strategy. They are concentrating more in the city of Kandahar, terrorising tribal elders or government officials.

"For the last two or three few weeks, more than a dozen important people have been terrorised in Kandahar."

Pashtoon said that the Nato offensive must go ahead, although there have been concerns that support must first be secured with local tribal leaders.

"If they don't conduct the operation, the situation will become even worse because this will be like a defeat to the interntional community."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.