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UN Security Council Makes Lightening Visit to Afghanistan

The U.N. Security Council has made a lightening visit to Afghanistan, where diplomats met with the National Unity Government and had a first-hand look at the situation in the country.

The 15-member council visited Kabul from January 13-15. It was the first time council diplomats have traveled to the country since 2010.

"The visit was an opportunity to reiterate the Security Council's support for the government and people of Afghanistan and their efforts to restore peace, stability and progress to the country," said Kazakhstan Ambassador Kairat Umarov, who is president of the council this month and led the delegation.

Afghanistan has been working to rebuild after decades of occupation, internal strife and conflict. In 2002, the U.N. Security Council authorized a political missionknown as UNAMA -- at the request of the nascent government which had taken back the country from Taliban militants.

Council members, including U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other senior Afghan officials. The diplomats also engaged with members of parliament, women's groups, civil society and representatives from political parties. Discussions focused on the political, security, socio-economic and human rights situation.

"We got a great briefing on the status of women empowerment in Afghanistan during the U.N. Security Council visit," tweeted Ambassador Karel van Oosterom of the Netherlands. The Dutch will oversee the Afghanistan portfolio on the Security Council this year.

Council members reiterated their support for the government's reform initiatives, in particular to counter corruption and accelerate regional cooperation, according to a statement from UNAMA. Diplomats also expressed concern about the security situation, specifically the presence of al-Qaida, Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan Province-affiliated fighters, and called for greater international and regional security cooperation.

Afghanistan is due to hold parliamentary elections later this year and presidential polls in 2019. Representatives of the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission briefed the delegation on the preparations.

The Security Council will hold a high-level debate on the situation in Afghanistan this Friday. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief members and Kazakhstan's foreign minister, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, will chair the session.