U.N. chief Ban welcomes Obama's Afghanistan strategy

UNITED NATIONS Wed Dec 2, 2009 1:13pm EST

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday welcomed the new U.S. strategy in the war in Afghanistan and vowed that the United Nations would help to ensure a successful transfer of responsibility to Afghans.

"(Ban) notes with appreciation the emphasis on strengthening the capacity of Afghan institutions and Afghan security forces in particular," U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters.

"The United Nations remains committed to support all efforts (toward a) transition to increased Afghan ownership, responsibility and leadership in achieving lasting peace, stability and development in the country," Okabe said.

President Barack Obama announced a 30,000-strong U.S. troop increase for the Afghan war on Tuesday and said he would begin handing over responsibility for security in parts of the country to Afghan authorities in mid-2011.

In his televised speech, Obama said the goal of raising U.S. troop levels to nearly 100,000 was to step up the battle against the Taliban, secure key centers and train Afghan forces so they can take over, allowing for a U.S. withdrawal.

The United Nations helps to coordinate civilian aid and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and played a key role in organizing and overseeing the recent presidential election.

The world body has also become a target of insurgents. In late October, Taliban militants killed five U.N. workers in an an attack on a guesthouse housing 34 U.N. staff.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, editing by Vicki Allen)