ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - The Taliban says it has withdrawn its security assurances for the International Committee of the Red Cross staff working in Afghanistan.
The insurgent group accused the neutral humanitarian group of failing to meet its obligation to monitor detention conditions and provide medical aid to Taliban prisoners in Afghan jails.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said health conditions of its prisoners in the Pule-e-Chharkhi detention facility in the capital, Kabul, have deteriorated in recent months and resulted in the deaths of some prisoners, but the ICRC has failed to respond to the situation under its stated obligations.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban] is, therefore, announcing withdrawal of a security agreement we had with ICRC for its operations in Afghanistan. Safety of their workers is no longer guaranteed,” Mujahid said.
A spokesman for the ICRC Afghan mission told VOA the agency will engage bilaterally with the Taliban and will not comment publicly on this issue.
“We have always sought to build relationships of trust with all parties to the conflict through a bilateral and confidential dialogue. We rely on the parties to allow us to work in safety to protect and assist victims of the conflict. This is our sole objective,” said Roya Musawi.
The insurgent group's action comes amid escalating hostilities in many Afghan provinces where civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence. The ICRC was among the first few organizations to reach the embattled southeastern city of Ghazni earlier this week and provided urgent medical assistance, and gave water to thousands of residents.
The city of 270,000 people, had been without electricity, water and food for several days after a Taliban offensive last Friday sparked days of deadly clashes.
The ICRC is an independent and neutral organization that has been working in Afghanistan for more than 30 years, including areas controlled by the Taliban.
The relief group closed two of its offices in the country and significantly scaled down its operations last October following two deadly attacks on its employees. Militants ambushed an ICRC convoy in the northern Jowzjan province, killing six aid workers, while a physiotherapist was gunned down by a longtime patient in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.