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Pakistani Aid Worker Killed in Afghanistan - 2003-12-09

Another aid worker has been killed in Afghanistan where the worsening security situation is sparking renewed international action. U.S. forces this week launched one of the largest offensives to date against insurgents, while the head of the United Nations is calling for increased international involvement to avoid failure in trying to rebuild the war-torn country.

This time it was a relief worker from Pakistan who became the latest victim of attacks in Ghazni province. It is one of close to a dozen Afghan provinces suffering from an on-going insurgency, waged by forces loyal to the country's former Taleban regime and their allies from the al-Qaida terror network.

The incident comes just days after two Indian engineers were kidnapped in the same province, and several weeks since a Turkish engineer was abducted and later released.

Monday the U.S. military announced its largest operation against insurgents since the fall of the Taleban in 2001. Operation Avalanche involves the deployment of two thousand soldiers to violence-plagued sections of the east and south of the country.

The U.S. military says the new offensive will aim to outpace the insurgents' "decision cycle," denying them time to regroup or stage their guerrilla-style attacks.

The operation was announced the same day U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented his report on Afghanistan, warning that international efforts to rebuild the country may fail unless the security situation improves.

He called for better protection for U.N. and relief workers and another international meeting to boost financial and political support for Afghanistan.

U.N. peacekeeping operations director, Jean Marie Guehenno, spoke to reporters in New York about Mr. Annan's report. "Our view remains that with further engagement of the international community, we can make decisive progress," he said. "But it is clear the next 12 months are going to be critical."

Mr. Annan warned that the lack of security is hindering what he called the "critical political process" - an apparent reference to Afghanistan's meeting this week to adopt a new constitution.

The grand council, or loya jirga, was to open meetings in Kabul Wednesday. But that has been delayed until at least Saturday because delegates are facing delays in traveling to the capital.

But observers here say the delay will allow the various factions of loya jirga delegates time to negotiate ahead of the formal council debate.

Transitional President Hamid Karzai is lobbying hard behind the scenes for the current draft of the constitution to be passed. The current draft calls for a strong presidency, which critics say places too much power in one person.