UN welcomes US plan for Afghanistan buildup

AP News
Posted: Dec 02, 2009 2:07 PM

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday embraced the new U.S. plan for Afghanistan, calling it a balanced effort to achieve stability in the war-torn nation.

The United Nations chief said he appreciated President Barack Obama's call to "balance military and civilian efforts" and the emphasis on strengthening Afghan institutions and security forces.

Obama said in a speech Tuesday night that he plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total to 100,000, and begin to withdraw troops as early as July 2011. He said Afghan forces would be rapidly trained to take over the fight.

Ban said he feels strongly that "institution-building is a long-term but necessary process that will ultimately ensure the sustainability of the international community's joint efforts in Afghanistan."

Ban also said the U.N. remains committed to helping Afghanistan achieve peace, stability and development through a "transition to increased Afghan ownership, responsibility and leadership."

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States would "not immediately" push for any additional measures from the U.N. Security Council to bolster the new U.S. war plan for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, which she described as essential to United States' security.

"This is not an open-ended commitment," she said. "We are not trying to build a perfect nation."

She said the U.S. would instead focus now on the U.N. General Assembly's budget committee, making sure the U.N. mission to Afghanistan "has the resources it needs and indeed that the security component is fully addressed." She spoke to reporters outside Security Council chambers.

But the U.N.'s presence in Afghanistan has been shaken by recent violence.

After an Oct. 28 attack on a private guesthouse where dozens of U.N. staffers lived, killing five U.N. workers and three Afghans, the U.N. announced it was sending about 600 foreign staff out of the country or into secure compounds. As of mid-October there were 6,700 people working for the U.N. mission and U.N. funds and programs in Afghanistan, including 1,100 international staff and 5,600 local staff.

The U.N.'s mission in Afghanistan, known as UNAMA, is a civilian, not military, operation that helped Afghan authorities prepare for presidential elections and to promote better health, education and development in the country. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, saying they intentionally targeted U.N. employees working on the presidential election.

Rice said UNAMA's "vital" missions continue and the U.S. views the mission's recent setbacks as temporary.