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Oct 3rd, 2008

Children of U.N. Staff to Leave Pakistani Capital

Image: Pakistan violence
Soldiers from Pakistan’s paramilitary force stop vehicles at a checkpoint in Karachi on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008. (Photo credit: Fareed Khan / AP)

October 2, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The U.N. declared the Pakistani capital unsafe for the children of its international staff and ordered them out, putting the once tranquil city on par with Kabul and Somalia.

Underlining Pakistan’s crumbling security situation, a suicide bomber failed in an attempt to assassinate a prominent anti-Taliban politician, and troops reportedly killed 27 militants in the restive northwest.

Pakistan is under intense U.S. pressure to combat militants responsible for rising attacks in neighboring Afghanistan. Its faltering efforts so far have been met with a blur of suicide attacks in Pakistani cities. …

U.N. expatriate staff will no longer be allowed to live with their children in the capital, the neighboring city of Rawalpindi or in Quetta, on the Afghan frontier. …

Danger zones

Much of the border region, including the city of Peshawar is already off-limits for U.N. families. Some of those affected can relocate to areas deemed safer, such as Lahore or Karachi.

But others are expected to leave Pakistan altogether, which could disrupt U.N. operations in the country as it faces severe economic difficulties and a crumbling of basic public services in militancy-torn areas. …

Pakistan has suffered a surge in attacks by Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants on government, military and Western targets over the last two years that has fanned fears about the nuclear-armed nation’s stability. …

Deadly clashes

Pakistani officials have blamed the Marriott blast on extremists holed up in tribal areas along the Afghan border. The same groups are suspected in suicide attacks that, according to army statistics, have killed nearly 1,200 people since July last year.

Several have taken place in the capital, including a car bombing claimed by al-Qaida that killed six outside the Danish Embassy in June. A blast killed a Turkish aid worker and injured 12 people, including four FBI agents, at a restaurant in March. …

Extra checkpoints have sprung up across Islamabad, while paramilitary troops glower over the top of machine guns at the entrance to the diplomatic quarter, where many foreigners live and work.

However, the precautions have only made parts of the city resemble Kabul, which like trouble spots including Somalia and southern Nigeria, are non-family postings for U.N. international staff.

Baghdad and Khartoum are the only capitals where the U.N. is on a higher security level, Kamaal said. …


U.S. General Wants Help in Afghanistan Now

Troops needed ‘as quickly as possible,’ top commander says

Image: A Canadian soldier looks at the body of a suspected Taliban
A Canadian soldier with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan looks at the body of a suspected Taliban insurgent at their base on Sept. 17, 2008. The possible militant was killed during a joint patrol with Afghan police in Kandahar province. (Photo credit: Allauddin Khan / AP file)

October 1, 2008

WASHINGTON — The top American military commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that he needs more troops and other aid “as quickly as possible” in a counterinsurgency battle that could get worse before it gets better.

Gen. David McKiernan said it’s not just a question of troops — but more economic aid and more political aid as well.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan said there has been a significant increase in foreign fighters coming in from neighboring Pakistan this year — including Chechens, Uzbeks, Saudis and Europeans.

Violence up 30 percent

Officials have said that violence in Afghanistan is up about 30 percent this year compared with 2007. The Taliban and associated militant groups like the terrorist network al-Qaida have steadily stepped up attacks in the last several years and more U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan already this year than in any year since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

“We’re in a very tough fight,” McKiernan said. “The idea that it might get worse before it gets better is certainly a possibility.” …

The general’s assessment coincides with a fresh report on the situation by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who expressed dismay that attacks against aid workers have increased in 2008.

A report released by his office Tuesday said that at least 30 aid workers have been killed and 92 abducted so far this year. At least 22 World Food Program convoys have been attacked, as have 59 schools.

“Regardless of the progress made in certain areas, my overall impression is that the situation in the country has deteriorated over the past six months,” Ban said in the report. “Nevertheless, I strongly believe that the negative trend can be reversed.”

Saying that security has “deteriorated markedly,” the report noted that the number of U.N.-recorded security-related incidents rose to 983 in August — the highest monthly total since the Taliban’s ouster in late 2001. The report did not define a security incident, but typically it refers to bombings, shootings and other violent acts.


U.S. commander says more troops needed in Afghanistan (MSNBC, Oct. 1, 2008) — The top American military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, says he needs more troops and other aid “as quickly as possible” in a counterinsurgency battle that could get worse before it gets better. Dara Brown reports. (01:02)


Related story

Canada’s prime minister says NATO can’t be in Afghanistan forever

4 Responses to “Islamabad Becomes Danger Zone”
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