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Europe

A Tough Task

The new EU envoy to Afghanistan has his work cut out for him. Can he, together with the UN special representative, convince Afghan leaders to come together and put the country back on its feet?

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Afghanistan: A diplomatic challenge for Klaus-Peter Klaiber.

The family furniture was already on its way down under when the call came. Klaus-Peter Klaiber, the designated German ambassador to Australia, had been appointed the European Union’s new envoy to Afghanistan. Canberra has now been exchanged for Kabul.

Klaiber calls his new position "an enormous challenge". He will coordinate post-war aid efforts and observe the new administration. His primary task is to help the United Nations special representative Lakhdar Brahimi and his team work on setting up the new political framework.

A European voice

"I think I can add the voice of 15 member countries of the European Union to promote this difficult task," Klaiber said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "The EU has also asked me to look at the neighboring countries to find out how they want to accompany the new Afghanistan."

He said he hoped he will be able to raise the profile of the EU. "Also, it would be rather peculiar if the European Union did not have a face in this country that is in the media and political spotlight."

"And I especially hope to tell the Afghan people and also the world how much concrete assistance the European Union is already providing and that it is ready to provide assistance for the reconstruction of the country, as well." The EU is planning to lead the rebuilding efforts, for which it has earmarked aid totalling some 316 million euro (US $ 285 million) this year.

Klaiber already ruffled a few feathers when he stated on German television that Osama bin Laden should be tried at an international court if captured, as terrorism is an international phenomenon. The US has proposed trying the Saudi militant before a military tribunal.

A career diplomat

Klaiber is no stranger to diplomatic tasks. Before he had been named the German ambassador to Australia, he was assistant secretary-general for political affairs at NATO.

His experience in crisis management dates from this NATO position dealing with the Balkan conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. However, Klaiber has no experience with Afghanistan nor is he familiar with the region.

Rough working conditions

The EU team in Kabul is still getting pieced together. Klaiber will set up his office at the premises of the former East German mission in Kabul.

One of his first tasks will be to get glass put back in the windows of the building. He expects everything to be operational by mid-January.

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