Nervous foreigners await better days in Afghanistan
Sat 19 Sep 98 - 03:20 GMT
KABUL, Sept 19 (AFP) - The handful of foreigners left in the Afghan capital are adopting strict security measures despite assurances from the Taliban regime that they are completely safe in Kabul.
"We're keeping to a very low profile," said one expatriate, noting the situation was improving gradually for the dozen or so foreigners -- Red Cross officials and two journalists -- left in Kabul.
Another foreigner said that, like others, he restricted his movements in the city to a simple journey between his home and his office.
"We no longer go out alone, but if we must, then we are always accompanied by an Afghan colleague," he said.
"At any rate, we're so few in number and, there being no diversions, we stay at home when not at work," he added.
Most foreigners, who worked for either non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or the United Nations, left Kabul in two waves.
In July the NGOs left after rejecting the Taliban militia's orders to shift to a polytechnic institute campus lacking water and power, in a part of Kabul largely destroyed during fighting among different Afghan factions between 1992 and 1995.
The second exodus, this time of UN officials, followed the killing on August 21 of Italian Carmine Calo of the UN Special Mission for Afghanistan (UNSMA) in Kabul, a day after the US missile raid against alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
A French diplomat, Eric Lavertu, working with UNSMA, was injured in the attack, widely seen as carried out in revenge for the US raid.
"The situation is improving bit by bit, but it is diffcult to know if it is 100 percent safe," said one foreigner, adding he was most afraid of the unruly non-Afghan Moslems backing the Taliban.
The Taliban regime has said the killing of Calo was a "regrettable isolated incident" and that the safety of international aid officials was guaranteed.
"United Nations people and others may live without worries in Kabul," a Taliban foreign ministry official told AFP.
The UN plans to send an evaluation mission to Kabul soon prior to a gradual return of personnel.
"The Taliban have gone a long way in showing they can maintain control and security in Kabul and Kandahar," one senior UN source in Islamabad said earlier this month.
Since the former Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the UN has attempted to negotiate a peace settlement between warring parties, provided military observers and funded non-government organisation aid programs.
"The issue is security and the timeframe really is irrelevant, it could be one month, three months, six months or even 12 months before we resume full scale operations -- if at all," the UN source added.
"But it needs to be pointed-out that a 12-month timeframe is purely an arbitrary figure, it could be more, it could be less," he said.
Another UN source has said: "It is possible we might resume some form of operation, perhaps to Kabul, maybe by the end of this month -- but we'll have to wait for a decision from New York."
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