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UN to Move Afghanistan Foreign Staffers After Attack

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The UN will move about 600 of its international staff members in Afghanistan, removing some from the country, following an Oct. 28 attack by Taliban militants that killed five of the agency’s workers in a Kabul guesthouse.

“We are relocating some non-essential staff elsewhere in Afghanistan or out of the country” while arranging safer housing for them, said Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. About 1,100 of the UN’s 5,000-member staff in the country are foreigners, he said.

It is uncertain how many staffers will be sent overseas, Siddique said in a telephone interview from Kabul. “We see this as a temporary measure, lasting about three to four weeks, until we can better assure their security,” he said.

The disruption of UN operations comes as the Obama administration is deciding whether to send as many as 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan to support the 68,000 already there. The U.S. government’s search for a new strategy has been complicated by increased Taliban attacks on government and international targets in Kabul and by a fraud-tainted presidential election that has weakened the political legitimacy of President Hamid Karzai.

While the security moves will disrupt some UN work in the country, “we’re making every effort to minimize that,” Siddique said. The UN mission distributes food to poor Afghans, coordinates the clearance of land mines across the country and provides technical help to the Afghan government, which the U.S. is trying to strengthen.

Taliban gunmen with explosive vests attacked the Bakhtar Guesthouse in central Kabul at dawn eight days ago, killing UN workers and others living there. “The vast majority” of the UN’s staff in Afghanistan is based in Kabul, living in 93 guesthouses, said Siddique.

“We are going to consolidate our people” into better- secured living quarters, he said. Some UN staff will be moved to the United Arab Emirates or to Central Asian countries, UN spokesman Adrian Edwards said, according to the New York Times.

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