April 27th, 2010
07:55 AM ET

Kandahar official slams U.N. withdrawal move

KABUL, Afghanistan — The head of Kandahar's provincial council slammed the U.N. decision to pull its local staff out of the southern Afghan region and is hoping the move will be reconsidered.

Ahmad Wali Karzai told reporters Tuesday the decision wasn't "necessary" since the situation in Kandahar province and the city of the same name is "not that bad."

"Everyone knows that people are going about their business and the kids are going to school," he said. "Pulling U.N. staff out of Kandahar will have negative effect on the morale of people in Kandahar and on humanitarian work here and in the area."

Unspecified "threats" have forced the United Nations in Kandahar city to order its local staff to stay home until further notice.

More than 200 Afghan employees are affected, and several have been moved to the capital, Kabul. But Karzai said "there was no direct specific threat to United Nations here in Kandahar."

The move comes as international forces prepare for a major offensive against the Taliban in the Kandahar region, long a major front in the Afghan war.

Karzai said local officials are working with the Afghan Foreign Ministry to keep the U.N. staffers in Kandahar.

"Being in a U.N. position and having a U.N. salary, they must have thought about the situation in Afghanistan before coming," he said. "In the current situation Afghanistan is in - bad things are happening and the people who work here should tolerate it."

In recent months, violence in the city has escalated, with numerous bombings and assassinations of officials. The bloodshed and the potential threats spurred the United Nations to make the move to withdraw staffers. A U.N. source later said the assessment came after "specific chatter" about possible attacks.

It's the first time U.N. staff have been moved or ordered to stay home since a deadly attack on a U.N. guesthouse in Kabul in November last year.

The uptick in Kandahar violence comes as U.S. and NATO forces continue operations against the Taliban in Kandahar and surrounding districts and plan a massive military offensive to wrest control of the region from Taliban militants.

NATO-led and Afghan forces have been consulting with tribal leaders to gain their backing for such an operation. Troops recently embarked on a major push against the Taliban in the Marja region of neighboring Helmand province.

- Journalist Muhib Habibi contributed to this report

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