Afghanistan Pro­tect­ing the Pro­tec­tors

The coun­try is very in­se­cure af­ter exit of forces.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Muham­mad Ali Ehsan The writer is a re­tired lieu­tenant colonel of the Pak­istan Army. He is cur­rently pur­su­ing a Ph.D in civilmil­i­tary re­la­tions.

Gen­eral Stan­ley McChrys­tal was the Com­man­der of the In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010. A man about whom the for­mer US De­fence Sec­re­tary Robert Gates had said, ‘He is per­haps the finest war­rior and leader of men in com­bat I have ever met.’ Gen­eral McChrys­tal had fa­mously said that ‘US could beat Tal­iban with one hand tied be­hind its back. But the en­emy was not the prob­lem, pro­tect­ing the peo­ple was.’

Whether it is the con­duct of a UN le­git­imized mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion by an in­ter­na­tional force in a tar­geted coun­try or the pro­vi­sion of hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief and aid by the in­ter­na­tional aid agen­cies there, the lo­cal mil­i­tants who take up arms against such in­ter­ven­tions al­most in­vari­ably re­spond by rais­ing the stakes of the eth­i­cal and moral di­men­sion of the war and to do that they tar­get and kill the in­no­cent civil­ians on one pre­text or the other. The Tal­iban are do­ing the same in Afghanistan and to­day, in the crosshair of their gun sights, are the work­ers of in­ter­na­tional aid agen­cies work­ing there.

The job that these aid work­ers per­form is not easy. The mis­sion of the in­ter­na­tional aid work­ers is al­ways very chal­leng­ing and full of dan­gers. Yet men and women be­long­ing to the aid or­ga­ni­za­tions put their lives at stake to un­der­take and ex­e­cute hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief mis­sions in coun­tries where the war weary peo­ple de­serve im­me­di­ate re­lief. But can in­ter­na­tional aid work­ers con­tinue their work in Afghanistan given the in­creased num­ber of at­tacks they have come un­der in that coun­try this year? What can Afghanistan do about it? Can it af­ford the nu­mer­ous aid agen­cies to wind up their work and leave the coun­try? Would this not have se­ri­ous con­se­quences for the peo­ple who heav­ily rely on their aid in the ab­sence of aid and ser­vices that should be pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan it­self? Does the Afghan gov­ern­ment have any se­cu­rity plan and do its se­cu­rity forces re­tain the abil­ity and the ca­pac­ity to safe­guard and pro­tect the in­ter­na­tional aid or­ga­ni­za­tions in the coun­try? These are some of the crit­i­cal ques­tions the an­swers to which will ac­tu­ally de­ter­mine the con­ti­nu­ity or par­tial and to­tal dis­con­ti­nu­ity of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid work in Afghanistan in the com­ing days by many NGOs.

Peo­ple in Need (PIN) had been de­liv­er­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian work in

Afghanistan since 2001. Re­cently, 9 Afghan aid work­ers be­long­ing to this Czech or­ga­ni­za­tion were at­tacked in their guest house in Zari dis­trict of Balkh Province in the rel­a­tively peace­ful and quiet North­ern Afghanistan. The at­tack was the worst ever on an aid agency in terms of the causal­i­ties it in­flicted and forced the aid agency to re­spond by sus­pend­ing all its work in Afghanistan. The at­tack came weeks af­ter a guest house in Kabul pop­u­lar with the aid agen­cies was at­tacked and 14 peo­ple, mostly for­eign­ers, were killed. Ear­lier, in April this year, five Afghan work­ers for ‘Save the Chil­dren’ were found dead af­ter they were ab­ducted in the Afghan south­ern province of Uruz­gan.

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions As­sis­tance Mis­sion in Afghanistan (UNAMA), last year 57 aid work­ers were killed in Afghanistan. This year 26 aid work­ers have al­ready died, 17 have been in­jured and another 40 have been ab­ducted so far. Given the in­creased mil­i­tant ac­tiv­i­ties due to the on­go­ing spring of­fen­sive by the Tal­iban and the poor pro­tec­tion mea­sures pro­vide by the gov­ern­ment to the aid agen­cies the num­ber of at­tacks on aid work­ers and the ca­su­al­ties may rise pro­foundly in the com­ing months.

Whether it is Amer­i­cans, Rus­sians, In­di­ans, Ira­ni­ans, Chi­nese, Saudi Ara­bi­ans or Pak­ista­nis, all seem to have their own in­ter­ests in the wartorn coun­try. Un­for­tu­nately, ev­ery­thing these coun­tries have done so far in Afghanistan has re­mained tac­ti­cal and has not been able to change the big­ger pic­ture which is, that de­spite the huge aid that Afghanistan con­tin­ues to re­ceive from some of these coun­tries, it re­mains very in­se­cure and amongst the fif­teen least de­vel­oped coun­tries in the world.

What could re­duce the se­cu­rity threat in Afghanistan is the con­ti­nu­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of mil­i­tary to mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Afghanistan and Pak­istan. The fight against ter­ror­ism has gained im­pe­tus but so has the level of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries since the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani. The se­cu­rity in­ter­est, like the long bor­der of the two coun­tries, is ‘shared’ and it is not only the Tal­iban but now the emer­gence of the ISIS in the re­gion that not only wor­ries these two coun­tries but the whole world com­mu­nity.

How­ever, the as­sur­ance of the lead­er­ship of the two coun­tries at their joint press con­fer­ence in Kabul on 12 May 2015 is very re-as­sur­ing. Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif said that ‘the en­e­mies of Afghanistan can­not be friends of Pak­istan’ and Pres­i­dent Ghani in re­turn said that ‘en­e­mies of Pak­istan can­not be friends of Afghanistan.’ If this could move be­yond the lead­er­ship rhetoric and could be se­ri­ously im­ple­mented as a joint res­o­lu­tion for bi­lat­eral mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries, the crim­i­nals and mil­i­tants on each side will find it very dif­fi­cult to plan, or­ga­nize and ex­e­cute at­tacks in ei­ther coun­try. As much as the aid agen­cies and their work­ers are busy in Afghanistan to lay the foun­da­tion for the fu­ture peace and de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try, the se­cu­rity forces in Afghanistan also need to pro­vide them the much needed pro­tec­tion and se­cu­rity um­brella to ex­e­cute their work.

Aid work­ers in Afghanistan run a feed­ing pro­gram for the un­der­nour­ished and mal­nour­ished chil­dren, they pro­vide med­i­cal care, as­sist peo­ple who get dis­placed from the con­flict zones and ex­tend help to al­most all the vul­ner­a­ble and needy peo­ple who re­quire such help and as­sis­tance. The Tal­iban who of­fi­cially es­pouse a pol­icy that re­jects at­tacks on hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers need to re-ex­am­ine the im­pact of the bru­tal­ity of such at­tacks not only against whom they are tar­geted but against the very peo­ple of Afghanistan who will suf­fer the most when and if such aid work is called off and dis­con­tin­ued.

Be­sides depend­ing on the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, the pro­vin­cial gover­nors of Afghanistan’s 34 prov­inces can also in­tro­duce and ex­e­cute an in­for­mal se­cu­rity sys­tem in which the over 2460 vil­lages in Afghanistan can each have de­fence com­mit­tees that can take over the re­spon­si­bil­ity of safe­guard­ing and pro­tect­ing any in­ter­na­tional aid or­ga­ni­za­tion and its work­ers who set up a camp or a fa­cil­ity in their area. These de­fence com­mit­tees could con­sist of armed men who should take it upon them­selves to en­sure the phys­i­cal pro­tec­tion of such or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Easy said than done, Pres­i­dent Ghani’s gov­ern­ment in Kabul is con­tin­u­ously un­der se­vere crit­i­cism by the var­i­ous pro­vin­cial gover­nors for fail­ing to stop the grow­ing in­sur­gent at­tacks all over the coun­try. The way for­ward is not crit­i­cism but to end the po­lit­i­cal dis­agree­ments and in­fight­ing be­tween Kabul and its prov­inces and pro­ceed to cre­ate a se­cu­rity sys­tem that en­com­passes both in­for­mal and for­mal se­cu­rity. Such a sys­tem will raise a com­pe­tent, ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient de­fence shield against the at­tack­ing in­sur­gents and the mil­i­tants and also lay down a de­fence strat­egy that can cre­ate those nec­es­sary se­cu­rity cir­cum­stances and con­di­tions that will en­cour­age the in­ter­na­tional aid agen­cies to con­tinue their work in Afghanistan. Pres­i­dent Ghani would also do well to an­nounce the much de­layed ap­point­ment of a de­fence min­is­ter in his cab­i­net or de­fence and se­cu­rity of Afghanistan may con­tinue to be ne­glected.

Aid work­ers in Afghanistan run a feed­ing pro­gram for the un­der­nour­ished and mal­nour­ished chil­dren.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.