UN relocates about 100 personnel from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan in view of security and other constraints in Kabul

The UN thanked the Government of Kazakhstan for the offer to host a temporary remote office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

The United Nations has moved about 100 of its personnel from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan in view of the “security and other constraints” in Kabul and they will return to the country as conditions permit, according to the spokesman of the UN chief.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on Sunday.

Their sudden victory, which comes as the US withdraws from the country following a 20-year-war, has sparked chaos at Kabul’s airport, from where America and allied nations are trying to safely evacuate thousands of citizens and allies.

Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters on Wednesday that the group of about 100 UN personnel from across the system travelled from Kabul to Almaty, where they will continue their work remotely.

He said the UN thanks the Government of Kazakhstan for the offer to host a temporary remote office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

“As the Secretary-General told the Security Council on August 16th, the United Nations presence in Afghanistan will adapt to the security situation," Dujarric said.

"In light of the security and other constraints in Kabul and other parts of the country at the moment, it was decided to move a part of the UN staff out of the country. Personnel will return to Afghanistan as conditions permit,” he said.

Guterres had said that the United Nations presence will adapt to the security situation but had stressed that “we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need.” Dujarric added that the UN is committed to staying and delivering in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need. The majority of humanitarian personnel remain in Afghanistan, providing vital assistance to millions in need.

He said the remote presence will provide close support to the UN family’s continuing work on the ground in Afghanistan.

“This is a temporary measure intended to enable the UN to keep delivering assistance to the people of Afghanistan with the minimum of disruption while, at the same time, reducing risk to UN personnel.” Ramiz Alakbarov, Deputy Special Representative, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a statement that the UN in Afghanistan reiterates its commitment to stay and deliver aid to millions of people in need in the country.

“While some UN personnel that are not location-dependents temporarily been relocated, the majority of humanitarian personnel are staying to support the humanitarian response in line with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

“The humanitarian community – both the UN and non-governmental organisations – remain committed to helping people in Afghanistan. While the situation is highly complex, humanitarian agencies are committed to supporting vulnerable people in Afghanistan who need us more than ever,” Alakbarov said.

Dujarric added that the office in Almaty will be staffed by a relatively small number of international personnel.

“The safety and well being of all our staff, national and international, is a matter of paramount importance to the UN," he said.

"Again, without disclosing any information that may endanger colleagues, I can assure you that a significant amount of work is being undertaken as we speak, specifically to safeguard national staff. And we’re continuing to explore every avenue possible to further support national personnel.” He said Alakbarov has been in touch with senior Taliban officials on the ground in Kabul. “I’m not… I don’t have any details about any other contacts that have been had.” On why the UN personnel were not relocated earlier, Dujarric said “the scenes at the airport were rather chaotic. We had to bring in a plane from the outside. It took quite a bit of time and of work to coordinate with the parties on the ground, parties in the air, and others to ensure that this relocation could go smoothly.

“Discussions with the Kazakh authorities, [to] whom we are extremely grateful, were ongoing. They were finalised. And I can’t underscore our thanks to our friends in Almaty for having allowed us to open up this satellite office. A relocation is exactly that, it is a relocation,” he said.

The Almaty office has been set up to host about 100 international staff, “people who don’t need to be on location to do their work. It is a way of lightening the footprint for obvious, obvious reasons, so it is a relocation. They will go back…when we feel the situation allows it.” “I can tell you we are doing our utmost to safeguard our national staff and their dependents, whether that’s having those who will stay in the country or those who may come out," he said.

"The big difference between working for the United Nations and a nation is that we are not a nation, right? We are not a nation that issues visas. So there are all sorts of administrative hurdles that have to be negotiated and discussed. But the national staff is very much on the forefront of what we are trying to do every day," he added.

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