A top advisor to president Hamid Karzai stridently criticized the United Nations Mission in Afghaintan (UNAMA) in a panel discussion I moderated yesterday afternoon on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Lisbon.

Dr. Ashraf Ghani is the chairman of a commission on transition, responsible for overseeing the transfer of responsibilities to Afghans from the international community. I wanted to get a sense from Dr. Ghani of some of the challenges he is facing in this task, and while he praised the top UN Official in Afghanistan, Steffan de Mistura, he said the UN should shut down in Afghanistan. This is an advisor to the Afghan president and someone who is considered an arbiter between the international community and the Afghan government.

As you can see from the clip, I was somewhat shocked by his bluntness.


The panel, which included the top NATO civilian official in Afghanistan Ambassador Mark Sedwell, was organized by the Atlantic Council’s Young Atlanticist Network. Later this afternoon, Ban Ki Moon will address our group and I will have the opportunity to ask the Secretary General to respond to these criticisms.

UPDATE: Ban just fielded a question from Atlantic Council president Fred Kempe on Ghani’s remarks. Ban said that Hamid Karzi specifically asked that the UN do a better job delivering services "as one United Nations." (As opposed to different UN agencies working independently from each other — sometimes at cross purposes.) Ban admitted that this was a big challenge in Afghanistan. "The security situation in Afganistan has not allowed us to do work in a more coherent manner," said Ban. "This is what I think that Ashraf Ghani meant."

Mark Leon Goldberg, a delegate to the Young Atlanticist Summit, edits and writes UN Dispatch.