Nato representative clarifies 'safe Kabul' comments

Nato's top civilian representative in Afghanistan today moved to clarify comments he made suggesting Kabul was safer than parts of London or Glasgow.

Mark Sedwill, senior civilian representative for Nato, had told youngsters' news programme CBBC Newsround: "Here and in Kabul and the other big cities (in Afghanistan) 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."

But today he sought to distance himself from the comments, saying: "Any comment you have to clarify obviously wasn't very well put and the comparison I made with western cities distracted attention from the important point I was seeking to make.

"I was trying to explain to an audience of British children how uneven violence is across Afghanistan.

"Half the insurgent violence takes place in 10 of the 365 districts and, in those places, children are too often the victims of IEDs and other dangers.

"But, in cities like Kabul where security has improved, the total levels of violence, including criminal violence, are comparable to those which many western children would experience.

"For most Afghans, the biggest challenges are from poverty - the absence of clean water, open sewers, malnutrition, disease - and many more children are at risk from those problems than from the insurgency."

Mr Sedwill's initial comments provoked an angry reaction from critics.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said the official was "wrong" and Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said his comments were "misleading".

He said: "Afghanistan is the worst place on earth to be born a child - one in four children living there will die before they reach the age of five."

Mr Forsyth added that 2009 was the deadliest for children since late 2001, with more than 1,000 killed because of the conflict.