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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 21:43 GMT
UN envoy urges larger Afghan force
Fighters from Gardez
Recent fighting in Gardez raised security concerns
United Nations Afghan envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has asked the UN Security Council to urgently consider expanding the international peacekeeping force, so that it can operate beyond the capital Kabul.

Mr Brahimi said demands for a stronger international presence were coming not only from the interim government and ordinary Afghans, but also regional warlords following recent clashes in the north and east of the country.

Afghanistan has gone some way on the road towards peace and stability, but that road is still very fraught with danger

Lakhdar Brahimi
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the council that during his recent visit to Afghanistan he had found that the situation remained precarious, and he warned that, without security, reconstruction efforts would fail.

BBC United Nations correspondent Greg Barrow says that the UN has made quick progress in Afghanistan, with an interim administration in place and its leader, Hamid Karzai, a familiar face on the international stage.

But despite the calls, Security Council members remain unwilling to increase the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan, he says.

'Fraught with danger'

Mr Brahimi said that the presence of peacekeepers of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul had led to an improvement in the security situation there.

Lakhdar Brahimi
Mr Brahimi: Security has improved in Kabul
"Afghanistan has gone some way on the road towards peace and stability, but that road is still very ... fraught with danger," he said.

"The Afghan people are tired, indeed exhausted, by the conflicts that have destroyed their country and threatened the very existence of their nation."

Mr Annan said that security was the number-one preoccupation of everybody the UN representatives met in Afghanistan, and that without security reconstruction would not be possible.

Karzai plea

The comments appeared to echo calls by Mr Karzai to expand the peacekeepers' mandate during his recent visits to the United States and United Kingdom.

Marines at Bagram Airport
Britain currently leads the peacekeeping force
The interim Afghan leader wants the mandate to include cities other than Kabul and for Britain, as current force commander, to show the way.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has not made any promises, saying there was a "limit" to what Britain could do.

Britain commands the force for the moment - it will probably hand over to Turkey soon - and has more than 1,000 troops committed. Many of them will stay in Afghanistan for a couple of years.

See also:

31 Jan 02 | South Asia
Karzai came and all but conquered
30 Jan 02 | Americas
Karzai asks UN for bigger force
27 Jan 02 | South Asia
Controversy clouds Karzai's US visit
23 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Afghans 'almost fired on UK troops'
31 Jan 02 | South Asia
Fighting setback for Afghan leaders
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
Optimism over peacekeeping force
11 Dec 01 | South Asia
UN upbeat on Kabul peacekeepers
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