Growing levels of violence in Kandahar and the prospect of more to come with NATO’s unfolding offensive in the area has prompted the U.N. and other relief organizations to step out of the way. The U.N. is in the process of cutting its foreign staff level in the southern city as part of a security review, said a spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in the capital, Kabul. Last week, NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, declared the operation to root out insurgents in Kandahar was underway. But rather than opening with a D-Day-like assault as in Marjah, next door in Helmand province, he said the offensive in Kandahar would be rolled out in stages. Manuel said the U.N. security review is not reaction to the military push as much as it’s a response to the overall situation in Kandahar, which is the spiritual home of the Taliban. A series of five coordinated bombings in the city on March 13-14 left 35 people dead and scores wounded. (The Canadian Press)

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