News / Asia

ICRC Urges Long-Term International Commitment to Afghanistan

An Afghan girl stands near a U.S. soldier standing guard at a U.S. military checkpoint in Kuz district in Kunar (File)
An Afghan girl stands near a U.S. soldier standing guard at a U.S. military checkpoint in Kuz district in Kunar (File)

The International Committee of the Red Cross is urging the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, to remain engaged and committed to working for the wellbeing of Afghanistan after international troops withdraw from the country in 2014.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says civilians in Afghanistan are still paying the price of conflict 10 years after the invasion of their country by American-led international forces. It says Afghans remain caught in the middle of armed violence and the security situation in many areas of the country remains alarming.

The ICRC’s head of operations for South Asia, Jacques de Maio, says many Afghans are pessimistic about the immediate future. He says they are uncertain about what will happen after international troops leave Afghanistan.

U.S. soldiers from Task Force
U.S. soldiers from Task Force "Cacti" are enveloped with smoke as they fire 120 mm mortar at Taliban positions from Combat Outpost Penich, in Khas Konar district in Kunar province, eastern Afghanistan, September 30, 2011

He tells VOA the ICRC anticipates continued armed conflict in the coming months and years. And he says that because of the unpredictability of future developments, the international community must remain involved and assume responsibility for what happens in Afghanistan.

“It is not because you withdraw, that you can self-exonerate yourselves from the responsibilities for what you leave behind. And, since we are not leaving with the international forces, since we are determined to stay in Afghanistan, we want to make that clear to everybody, so that everybody has to assume responsibility," said De Maio. "First and foremost, the parties to the conflict-the Afghan government, the Afghan forces, but also the armed opposition - all of them. But also the international component of this internationalized internal war.”

De Maio is referring to the NATO-led ISAF mission. He also says security and health care are the biggest humanitarian problems facing the people of Afghanistan today. He says access to medical care is at a critically low point in conflict-affected areas.

"Roads are mined, checkpoints are blocking movements, so that sick and wounded and people carrying them to hospital face long delays, obstacles, and sometimes with very tragic consequences … Conflict-related displacement is up over 40 percent in comparison to last year in parts of the north of the country … Malnutrition also has increased in some specific areas, but even in the south over the past year … Clearly, one has to recognize that the ongoing persistence of armed conflict is a very defining factor to this,” De Maio said.  

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been working in Afghanistan for 25 years and has no plans to leave. It says it remains committed to helping the people who are most vulnerable.

As international troops leave Afghanistan, responsibility for security is passing back to the Afghan authorities. De Maio says Red Cross workers will remain to monitor how the Afghan defense and security forces perform.  This includes continued visits to detainees to determine whether the conditions of their confinement are acceptable.

As part of its mandate to protect the civilian population, de Maio says the Red Cross will continue to remind both government and opposition forces of their obligation to respect international humanitarian law.

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