KABUL, Afghanistan – Two European diplomats who went to one of Afghanistan’s most volatile regions have been asked to leave the country.
The UN mission spokesman Aleem Siddique says a UN employee travelled to the volatile southern province of Helmand on Monday along with a European Union employee. Siddique says the Afghan government asked the UN employee to leave, claiming he was “detrimental” to national security.
Other officials said the Afghan government also asked the European Union employee to leave Afghanistan.
Siddique says one of those arrested is a Briton from Northern Ireland and the other is Irish.
A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said the two were “involved in some activities that were not their jobs.”
No officials from the European Union could be reached for comment.
Siddique said the UN employee was “assisting the government of Afghanistan with their delivery of governance in Helmand province.” He said the UN mission was optimistic the matter could be resolved without the UN official having to leave the country, though two other officials told The Associated Press the diplomats would leave the country within 48 hours.
Helmand province has been the scene of the heaviest fighting between Taliban militants and NATO and Afghan forces this year. It is also the world’s largest poppy-growing region. British military forces operate throughout the province.
The Afghan government, and particularly Karzai, has voiced a growing interest in meeting with Taliban leaders to try to persuade them to join the government as a way to end the insurgency. One town in northern Helmand province – Musa Qala – fell to British, Afghan and U.S. forces earlier this month after being in Taliban hands since last February.
Afghan officials said at least one key militant leader decided to stop supporting the Taliban and instead aligned himself with the Afghan government, greatly assisting the battle to retake the town.