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Kabul 'safer' for kids than London or New York, says NATO official

Children’s advocates, aid workers, and human rights campaigners challenged the statement from NATO's civilian representative Mark Sedwill, saying it was blind to ground realities.

Afghan children play in front of a school in Kabul on Nov. 22. Children are probably safer growing up in Afghanistan's major cities, including the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, than in London, New York, or Glasgow, NATO's top civilian envoy to Afghanistan has said.

Ahmad Masoo/Reuters

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The capital of war-torn Afghanistan is "probably safer" for children than New York City or London, says NATO’s top civilian representative in Kabul, despite Afghanistan being in the midst of a nine-year war.

Mark Sedwill made his original comments on a BBC children’s program airing today, responding to comments from Afghan children who said they were fearful of explosions.

“In Kabul and the other big cities, actually there are very few of those bombs. The children are probably safer here than they would be in London, New York, or Glasgow or many other cities. Most children can go about their lives in safety. It’s a very family-oriented society,” he said.

Children’s advocates, aid workers, and human rights campaigners challenged the statement – some connecting it to long-running concerns that the security bubble around top western officials in Kabul has blinded them to ground realities.

“I not only totally disagree with Mr. Sedwill’s assessment of child safety in Kabul, I’m amazed to see how oblivious and ignorant he is about this situation in Afghanistan,” says Ajmal Samadi, director of the Afghanistan Rights Monitor in Kabul.

“It means NATO [officials] have no idea what Afghanistan and Kabul is beyond their high compound walls. If he’s talking about NATO headquarters, yes, that’s safe,” he adds.

Poverty more deadly than war: Sedwill

Sedwill clarified his position in response to the outcry. "I was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan," he wrote in an e-mail statement.


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