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Europe

Keeping the Peace Past June

For months, interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has been lobbying for UN troops to stay longer. His argument won some support this week.

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Patrolling for peace

For months now, United Nations peacekeepers have managed to keep an uneasy peace in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

They have been welcomed by the local population, according to the Kabul interim government, and have suffered few casualties in fulfilling their role as trouble-shooters.

Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has been lobbying for an extension of their mandate almost from the day peacekeepers arrived in the capital.

His pleas have fallen on deaf ears in Europe, where governmental leaders have been nervous about angering voters with a mandate extension.

But Karzai’s argument got a boost this week from well-respected current leader of the International Security Force, Major-General John McColl. McColl said on Monday that leaving the country in mid-June would be "a major handicap" to the security of Afghanistan, especially at the time the Loya Jirga, the tribal council, convenes to vote on a new 18-month government.

Leading the peace

The 4,000 strong security force, in which roughly 1,000 German soldiers are taking part, has been lead by the British since January. Turkey has agreed to take over control of the force on April 30, getting special encouragement from the United States in the form of 260 million euro in aid ($ 228 million).

After much back and forth, Germany last month agreed to take control of the tactical command of the international security force in Kabul.

There hasn’t been much reaction from European capitals to McColl’s Monday statements. A speaker for the troop deployment command in Potsdam, said the UN mandate didn’t allow for German soldiers to stay longer.

"I think there must be some misunderstanding," said a speaker for the command.

In talks with Karzai two weeks ago, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said Germany would consider staying in Kabul if the United Nations agreed on extending the mandate. But Schröder, like the United States and a host of other European countries involved the force, outright rejected setting up forces outside of the capital.

It is in warlord-controlled cities and regions outside Kabul where such a force is most needed, Karzai has emphasized again and again. Each week brings new threats against non governmental aid workers and journalists working outside the capital by rogue bandits.

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