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Taliban to Let Red Cross Resume Afghan Relief Operations

FILE - An Afghan doctor, right, assists a survivor of a land mine blast at a hospital run by the International Committee of the Red Cross for war victims and the disabled in Kabul, Feb. 13, 2018. The Taliban announced Oct. 11, 2018, that it would allow the ICRC to fully resume operations in Afghanistan.

The Taliban announced Thursday that it would allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to fully resume operations in Afghanistan, restoring safety guarantees that had been withdrawn a few weeks ago.

The Islamist insurgency had pulled the guarantees in August after accusing the relief group of failing to meet its stated obligation to monitor detention conditions and provide medical aid to Taliban prisoners in Afghan jails.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said talks between its political negotiators and ICRC officials in Qatar led to the decision to again allow safe passage to Red Cross staff working in Afghanistan. The insurgent group maintains its "political office" in the Gulf state.

An ICRC spokesperson confirmed to VOA's Afghan service the two sides reached an agreement on the security issue, but did not share further details. Millions of people displaced by escalating hostilities in Afghanistan are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations said this week that the conflict and the worst drought to grip the country in years have displaced nearly 470,000 Afghan civilians this year.

A U.N. report disclosed Wednesday that conflict-related incidents caused more than 8,000 civilian casualties, including about 2,800 deaths, in the first nine months of this year, showing continuing high rates of civilian casualties.

The ICRC is an independent and neutral organization that has been working in Afghanistan for more than 30 years, including in areas controlled by the Taliban.

The aid group is helping wounded and disabled Afghans, supporting hospitals, making prison visits, helping detainees maintain contact with their families, monitoring the conduct of hostilities and preventing international humanitarian law violations.

The ICRC closed two of its offices in the country and significantly scaled down its operations last year following two deadly attacks on its employees. Militants ambushed an ICRC convoy in Jowzjan province, killing six aid workers, while a physiotherapist was gunned down by a longtime patient in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.