Saturday, September 13, 2014

In Afghanistan, U.N. fears for the safety of its staff amid growing threats of violence --- KABUL — The United Nations is debating whether to withdraw its staff from one of Afghanistan’s largest and safest cities as concerns grow that a deadlock between the country’s two presidential candidates could lead to unrest. -- In a series of stern statements Saturday, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said it’s facing increasing threats as it oversees a recount of Afghanistan’s contested presidential runoff. The process has been marred by disputes between Ashraf Ghani, who is expected to prevail, and Abdullah Abdullah, the likely second-place finisher, over plans for a U.S.-backed coalition government. -- The tension has persisted for weeks, heightening international concerns about the country’s ability to complete its first transition from one democratically elected government to another. --- Earlier this month, Abdullah withdrew his support for the recount, alleging it had failed to uncover hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots. And on Friday afternoon, dozens of Abdullah supporters protested in Kabul with derogatory signs directed at Jan Kubis, the chief of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. -- “Intimidation and verbal attacks directed at #UN are not acceptable,” the mission posted on Twitter on Saturday. “Threats against #UN = threats against entire international community. If such abuse continues, #UN will be forced to severely limit its activities, reducing its assistance to #Afghanistan and its people.” -- One immediate ramification could be the withdrawal of U.N. personnel from Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest city northern Afghanistan, officials said. -- In recent year years, Mazar-e-Sharif had been a rare success story in a country that continues to struggle against a Taliban insurgency and chronic poverty. -- The city has been relatively free of violence, and the border town is one of the country’s chief economic engines. But Mazar-e-Sharif could become a major flashpoint between Abdullah and Ghani supporters should election-related disturbances erupt. --- It’s home to tens of thousands of ethnic Tajiks, an ethnic group that heavily favored Abdullah in the election. Attah Mohammed Noor, the powerful governor of Balkh Province, which includes Mazar-e-Sharif, has repeatedly vowed he would lead “a big civil uprising” should Abdullah be denied the presidency because of perceived fraud. -- The U.N. stressed “consultations are ongoing” so no final decisions have been made about its future presence in northern Afghanistan. Yet the fact that a U.N. pullout is even up for discussion reflects the unease within the organization after Friday’s protest. - Read More, Tim Craig, Washingtonpost


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