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UN Envoy: Afghan Violence at Highest Level Since 2002


The U.N.'s top envoy in Afghanistan says security is deteriorating and more civilians are being killed as terrorists step-up sophisticated attacks. Kai Eide warns that a "winter lull" in attacks as seen in previous years, is not likely this year. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Kai Eide told the U.N. Security Council that in July and August of this year, Afghanistan witnessed the highest number of attacks since 2002. He said it was an increase of 40 percent over the same time last year.

He said the influence of the Taliban-led insurgency has spread beyond traditional areas in the south and east of the country, leading to more attacks and civilian deaths as well as the targeting of aid workers.

"We must all remember that the clear majority of such casualties are caused by the insurgency," said Eide. "The increased use of asymmetric attacks has also led to a significant increase in civilian victims, and such attacks must be firmly condemned."

Afghanistan's U.N. envoy, Zahir Tanin, acknowledged that the situation has deteriorated.

"Now, in 2008, despite hard work on the part of the international coalition forces and Afghans alike, terrorism appears to be on the rise again," said Tanin. "The Taliban burn down schools, stamp out reconstruction and butcher civilians. They attack roads and regions around Kabul, hampering international humanitarian relief. Ordinary people are increasingly targets."

While the majority of such deaths are caused by insurgents, U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan have come under increasing criticism for deadly air strikes that have also killed civilians.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the Security Council that the United States "deeply regrets" the accidental loss of civilian lives and that it does not take the issue lightly.

"We have intensified our efforts with the government of Afghanistan to improve coordination and communication in operations to prevent future incidents," said Khalilzad. "And our military central command has issued guidance to U.S. forces to continue to take steps to prevent civilian casualties and to acknowledge them when they occur."

The U.N.'s Kai Eide said there is "no quick fix" for Afghanistan and called on the council to be more generous with resources, as well as mandates, for the United Nations mission there.

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