Aid agencies urged to talk to Taliban

2010-11-22 12:31

Kabul - Political leaders are divided about talking to the Taliban to bring peace to Afghanistan yet engagement with militants is seen as a necessity for aid agencies trying to improve life in the war-torn country.

Local and foreign charities say they often have no option but to seek the consent of militant fighters to carry out their work, as the violent insurgency rages against foreign forces.

There are now calls for that contact to be stepped up, amid signs of a shift in attitudes towards aid agencies' presence in Afghanistan and hints at a role for some insurgents in the country's political future.

The Afghanistan Non-Governmental Organisation Safety Office (ANSO), an advisory body for aid agencies, has said the Taliban look "certain to play a permanent, and increasingly political, role" in the coming years.

"We recommend that NGOs start developing strategies for engaging with them rather than avoiding them," director Nic Lee wrote in the group's recent quarterly report.

"We understand that the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) are increasingly desirous of this engagement and, if handled correctly, will respond to it coherently and non-violently."

In need of urgent help


Afghanistan has become home to an alphabet soup of aid agencies since the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban for harbouring the al-Qaeda leaders who claimed the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 2001.

Decades of bitter conflict and civil strife had left Afghanistan in ruins, with urgent help required to improve basic services and infrastructure.

The country currently has the world's second worst infant mortality rate; disease, poverty and war mean ordinary Afghans do well to see their 45th birthday; while women are often spend only five years in school - if at all.

The call to increase contact with the Taliban - whose ultra-conservative Islamist ideology is partly blamed for the lack of social development - comes amid signs that they no longer see aid agencies as a threat.

ANSO and the Agency Co-ordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella group of more than 100 local and foreign aid agencies, say there is now a "general downward trend" in attacks on aid workers this year.

They attribute that partly to travel restrictions, better security and risk assessment by aid agencies.

Contact already taking place

But even if statistics show a 60% increase in kidnappings so far this year, they say the Taliban and other fighters appear more open to allowing humanitarian work to take place.

"There is now a different approach to NGOs by armed groups. As soon as armed groups realise they are aid workers bringing humanitarian aid to people, they mostly release them," said ACBAR's director, Laurent Saillard.

More direct contact is already happening, added Bijan Farnoudi, from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"Today the ICRC has to contact more local armed groups than was the case just one year ago to make sure our staff can travel safely in certain parts of the country," he said.

Officials at two well-established Afghan charities also said that courting trusted intermediaries was essential to being allowed to operate freely.

"We first contact village elders to get permission from the armed groups and then we move in," said Noor Hussain, acting head of Partners in Revitalisation and Building, which has been working on aid projects for the last 20 years.

Lawlessness still a problem


"Armed opposition groups have become more tolerant towards aid workers nowadays."

But fighting - and lawlessness - still pose problems, particularly in rural areas.

"We haven't been able to open clinics or provide health services where there is a 100% presence of armed opposition groups," said Mohammad Kabir, medical co-ordinator at the Afghan Health and Development Services charity.

"We have contacted local elders and influential people in these areas several times so they could mediate but these groups wouldn't give us any assurances on the safety of our staff.

Two months ago, armed men attacked a convoy carrying medicine to central Uruzgan province, looting the supplies and threatening to kill the charity's employees, he added.

"Thirteen clinics remain closed in areas under the control of the armed opposition groups. We haven't been able to reopen them despite our contacts with them," he said.

Read more on:    afghanistan  |  aid
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Minister promises high security on election day

Police will be out in full force in Manenberg on election day, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has told residents of Cape Town's gang-plagued township.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Rondebosch - 07:35 AM
    Road name: M5 Northbound
    DELAYS between Ottery and the N2 Highway Interchange
  • Friday Langa - 07:31 AM
    Road name: N7 Vanguard Drive Northbound
    DELAYS between Klipfontein Road and Viking Way
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1595.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Treat yourself to something beautiful. You tend to put so much energy in making everything around you work harmoniously, and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.