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UN Security Council Throws Supports To Extension Of Afghan Mission

Staffan de Mistura, the new head of UNAMA
UNITED NATIONS -- The UN Security Council has given its support to an extension of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another year. A formal vote is expected March 22.

Members are currently discussing possible adjustments to UNAMA's mandate, taking into account the conclusions of January's London Conference on Afghanistan.

At a meeting of the Security Council on March 18, Alain Le Roy, the UN's undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said the council "unanimously" supports the work of UNAMA, as well as the mandate extension. But he noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had recently sent the UN a request for UNAMA to provide logistical and technical support for parliamentary elections in September.

The current UNAMA mandate -- which expires on March 23 -- does not contain that provision.

The council's position is that Afghan authorities need to take greater responsibility for their domestic affairs, and that the international community must play a greater supporting role as the country strives toward peace and development.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the United States will continue to work to improve its coordination with the UN and other donors, and welcomes steps by others to do the same.

"We look forward also to seeing UNAMA take a re-energized, central role in coordinating humanitarian assistance among the UN agencies and in coordinating assistance among the donor governments, through improved mechanisms and increased staffing," Rice said.

In his latest quarterly report on the situation in Afghanistan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the international community should support the Afghan political process while respecting Afghans' own understanding of their country.

Ban hints in the report that the UN is ready to play more active role in informal negotiations with the Taliban but that the world body's participation "requires discretion and flexibility."

The biggest challenge facing UNAMA is security. UNAMA relocated part of its staff outside Afghanistan following an attack by the Taliban on a UN compound in Kabul in October 2009. Five UN workers were killed.

Most of those staffers have now returned to Afghanistan, but the vacancy rate for positions with UNAMA remains very high. Diplomats say that threatens the viability of its mission.