“There was nothing we could do. We have no troops in Kabul.” With these words, on September 27, 1996, United Nations spokeswoman Sylvana Foa responded to a journalist's question as to whether the United Nations had allowed the kidnapping of former Afghan President Najibullah from the UN compound in Kabul and his subsequent assassination by the Taliban.In days when fears of another civil war are growing in Afghanistan, the UN mission is in danger of ending up on the sidelines again.
When the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was launched on March 28, 2002, the United Nations in Afghanistan was no stranger. In previous years, millions of Afghans had relied on UN humanitarian assistance. In the 1980s in particular, the UN led the attempts at mediation between the US, the Soviet Union, Pakistan and the Mujahideen rebels that ultimately led to the Geneva Accords. In the 1990s, too, the United Nations repeatedly acted as mediators in the Afghan civil war.
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