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Afghan Security Worries Top UN Envoy

Lisa Schlein February 23, 2011

A senior United Nations official says the security situation in Afghanistan is at its worst point in a decade.

The U.N. secretary-general's deputy special representative for Afghanistan, Robert Watkins, said Wednesday that Afghanistan's security is "at its lowest point" since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

The outgoing envoy said that U.N. relief agencies now only have access to about 40 percent of the country.

Meanwhile, a senior NATO official said that although one-third of Afghan troops leave the army annually, the alliance expects to reach its goal for the number of Afghan soldiers and police officers this year.

Lieutenant General William Caldwell said the NATO training mission gets enough recruits to keep up with the high number of departures, and that the goal of 305,000 Afghan security force members by October will be reached.

He blamed the high attrition rate in part on weak leadership in the Afghan army and police. Attrition includes servicemen who quit for various reasons - among them desertion, the end of active duty and medical discharge.

Late last month, the chairman of NATO's Military Committee told reporters that the 28-nation alliance believed the mission in Afghanistan was on the right track.

Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola said Afghan forces were being well-trained to take over when the international community turns over responsibility for security in 2014.

Since 2010, the international coalition, along with its Afghan allies, have focused on tackling Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan. Taliban attacks across the country have continued, despite the efforts.

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