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U.N. Exits Afghanistan Following Deadly Suicide Bombing

November 5, 2009 at 6:31 PM EST

TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, Margaret Warner continues her reports from Afghanistan. Today, she looks at the United Nations as a target for killers.

MARGARET WARNER: On a dusty Kabul Tuesday afternoon amid the roar of engines at the Kabul Airport, the remains of two United Nations election volunteers were bid farewell.

The U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, spoke of Lydia Wonwene of Liberia and Josie Esto of the Philippines, who came to this war-torn country to help its fledgling democracy, only to be slaughtered in a suicide assault on their quarters.

KAI EIDE: Josie and Lydia came here as volunteers. They came here to put their footprint on the path to peace that must lead to peace of this country. That is a path that is narrow. And it leads uphill. It’s hard to walk.

MARGARET WARNER: That path was made narrower today, when Eide announced that more than half of his international staff of 1,100 would be moved abroad, at least temporarily. Nearly 4,000 Afghans will continue the U.N.’s work here.

KAI EIDE: We are not talking about pulling out, and we are not talking about evacuation. We are simply doing what we have to do, following the tragic event of last week, to look after our workers in a difficult moment, while ensuring that our operations in Afghanistan can continue.

MARGARET WARNER: Today’s announcement was triggered by the killing of five United Nations staffers who had come here to help shepherd the country’s first Afghan-run presidential election. That mission made them the target of threats from the Taliban, who opposed the entire election process.

That threat hit home here before sunrise last Wednesday. This is the Bakhtar guesthouse, one of more than 90 such modest lodgings around Kabul where U.N. workers live. A squad of gunmen and suicide bombers arrived, fought the guesthouse guards, and then went over the wall.