When the UN became transitional administrator in East Timor in late 1999, the UN made a commitment to an exit strategy and convinced itself that it had designed an effective one. Yet four years after independence, in 2006, faced with the prospect of the collapse of state institutions, the UN reengaged in East Timor on a scale approaching that of the transitional administration of 1999–2002. This chapter describes the development of the strategies for the UN’s exit from East Timor as transitional administrator and for the subsequent phased exit, concentrating on two aspects: the political transition leading to independence and the post-independence drawdown of the UN police and military components. It addresses the question of why the exit strategies adopted were not successful, suggesting that despite the claimed aversion of the UN and member states to artificial deadlines, for a variety of reasons the pressures for a rapid withdrawal tended to outweigh calls for a more measured approach geared to the complexities of the postconflict environment.
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