Return of UN aid workers to Afghanistan
UNHCR is planning the return of expatriate staff to Afghanistan following the decision by the UN in New York to allow the return of UN international personnel after a withdrawal of 7 months. UNHCR's priority will be to return international staff to its offices in Herat and Kandahar, areas to which refugees are currently returning from Iran and Pakistan. All UNHCR offices in Afghanistan (Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar) have remained open during the past 7 months, staffed by Afghan colleagues.
For almost 20 years, Afghans have been the largest group of refugees under UNHCR's mandate. More than 2.6 million Afghans are still living in exile in Iran (1.4 million) and Pakistan (1.2 million). During 1998, UNHCR estimates that over 100,000 people returned to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan, of whom 16,000 with UNHCR assistance. But serious under-financing of UNHCR's Afghan programme and the pull-out of UN staff from Afghanistan have hampered this operation.