UN Security Council considers visit to war-torn Afghanistan

By Associated Press 11 January 2018, 12:00AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The president of the U.N. Security Council said Thursday that members are considering a visit to Afghanistan to show solidarity with the Afghan people, meet government officials and see firsthand the situation in the war-torn country.

Kazakhstan Ambassador Kairat Umarov, who holds the council's rotating presidency this month, said the body hasn't been to Afghanistan for seven years and a trip would give members the opportunity to get an understanding of the country's needs and prospects.

He told reporters he hopes to lead a council mission but wouldn't discuss the timing.

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's briefed council members Tuesday on Afghanistan and Umarov called it "a very good and timely event."

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told reporters Tuesday he agreed with most points McMaster raised and "fully agreed" with his point on the need for Russian and U.S. cooperation on Afghanistan.

Nebenzia said he noted President Vladimir Putin's comment at his news conference in December "thanking the Americans for being in Afghanistan, for doing a job" and stressing the need for U.S.-Russian cooperation on the issue.

The Afghan war is now in its 17th year and Afghan forces have struggled to combat both the Taliban and the Islamic State extremist group since U.S. and international forces officially concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014 and shifted to a support and counterterrorism role. The Taliban's five-year rule of Afghanistan ended with the 2001 American-led invasion of the country.

President Donald Trump ordered an additional 3,800 U.S. troops to Afghanistan after announcing a new strategy in August aimed at ending America's longest war, bringing the total U.S. forces there to at least 15,000.

Umarov said Afghanistan has to deal with terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime. But, he added, there is also a movement to integrate the country into the region and promote regional trade that can help it "not to be perceived like a threat but as an attractive partner to the regional countries."

He said the government is trying to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and on that issue the council thinks "it should be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process, and we as international community can help them in achieving that goal."

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, also a council member, said, "The Taliban seem to think that the military strategy is the right one — and that's not what we think."

By Associated Press 11 January 2018, 12:00AM

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