United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today, meeting with top officials there ahead of a planned conference on the country he will attend early next month in Rome.
During a four-hour stay in Kabul, the Secretary General met with President Hamid Karzai, with the leader of the Wolesi Jirga (House of the People), Yunus Qanuni, with the military commander of the International Security Assistance Force, General Dan McNeill and with members of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“Responding to a long-standing invitation from President Karzai, the Secretary General wanted to evaluate the situation on the ground, better assess the progress made, and the role the United Nations can play,” according to his spokesperson.
The Secretary-General spoke in detail with President Karzai on questions of governance, including the fight against illegal drugs and corruption, Michele Montas told reporters in New York. “They agreed that to address such problems, strong leadership was needed, accompanied by visible action. They also discussed progress on economic development and the need to promote regional cooperation, as well as the paramount importance of education,” she said.
The issue of civilian casualties was raised separately during talks with General McNeill and Mr. Karzai, Ms. Montas added. “General McNeill expressed his intention to do all he could to reduce the impact that the conflict is having on civilians. President Karzai and the Secretary-General acknowledged the huge importance of the issue and agreed that steps are needed to ensure that Afghan civilians are safe.”
Mr. Ban has left Kabul and will be heading to Europe, where he will meet President Karzai once more on 3 July in Rome at the Conference on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan, which will be co-chaired by the UN and the Afghan and Italian Governments. The Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, will also attend the Rome conference.
Before going to Rome, the Secretary-General is expected in Geneva Monday for the opening of the High-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council.