Ban names new U.N. envoy to Afghanistan

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2010

UNITED NATIONS -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday named Staffan di Mistura, a veteran U.N. civil servant, as his envoy to Afghanistan, making him the international point person for efforts to promote the embattled nation's capacity to govern itself and pursue peace.

Di Mistura, a dual Swedish Italian national, will oversee a rapidly expanding U.N. mission that employs more than 1,500 staffers and will help the Afghan government in possible peace talks with the Taliban.

Di Mistura will replace Kai Eide of Norway on March 1. Ban thanked Eide for helping to maintain political stability in Afghanistan after a controversial presidential election that was marred by allegations of massive fraud and that led to charges from his deputy that he had suppressed evidence of ballot-rigging.

Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that di Mistura was strongly supported by Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command.

Holbrooke said the combination of di Mistura at the United Nations, NATO's appointment of a new civil-military coordinator and the pending appointment of a European Union coordinator in Afghanistan will establish a civilian triumvirate to more effectively match the U.S. and NATO military effort led by U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

Ban is to travel to London on Thursday for an international conference on Afghanistan. He said that he would press the United States and other nations to remain committed to the country over the long haul and to give the Afghan government greater say in running its affairs.

But Ban also said he expects President Hamid Karzai to outline a plan on how his government will promote good governance, curtail corruption and confront human rights abuses.

Staff writer Karen DeYoung in London contributed to this report.

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