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Security Council Renews UN Mission in Afghanistan

An Afghan villager smiles while welcoming a UN helicopter in the remote eastern hamlet of Gas Ulia (file photo).
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to renew the mandate of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another year.

On March 22, the council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the mission to March 23, 2013 and it reiterated its support for the transition process that will give the government "leadership and ownership" of its future.

The council also emphasized that "there is no purely military solution to ensure the stability of Afghanistan."

Briefing the council on March 20, UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, said that "the people of Afghanistan -- but also the international military forces -- are often pushed to the limit by the cumulative effects of this conflict, its tragedies and pressures."

UNAMA is expected to play a key role once international combat troops have left by the end of 2014.

U.S. Needs 'Significant' Forces In 2013

In related news, the top commander in Afghanistan has said that the United States will need "significant combat power" in the country in 2013.

Marine General John Allen's comments in a congressional appearance on March 22 came amid calls for a reduction in American forces.

Allen told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States is on track to reduce the 23,000-member "surge" force by the end of September, leaving 68,000 American soldiers to fight militants and train Afghan forces.

It was Allen's second congressional appearance this week.

President Barack Obama faces increasing pressure to accelerate the withdrawal timetable after more than a decade of war.

Under a plan endorsed by NATO nations and the Afghan government, local forces will gradually take over and most foreign combat troops will be gone by the end of 2014.

Karzai Pledges End To NATO Night Raids

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said his government is working to end controversial NATO night raids in negotiations with the United States on a long-term strategic pact.

Karzai, speaking at a military ceremony in Kabul on March 22, said some of NATO's past operations had "violated" Afghan sovereignty.

His remarks came as negotiations continue over a strategic pact, which will provide the framework for some U.S. forces to stay on after the majority of combat troops leave in 2014.

Talks have stalled as Karzai has demanded greater control over how U.S. forces operate in the country.

U.S. officials are hoping that the deal will be signed before a NATO summit in May.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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