U.S. & Allies -- Cowards All -- Still
Fail to Provide Protection for Humanitarian Aid Convoys
How Many More Must Unnecessarily
December 25, 2001
It seems like there has been
almost a deliberate effort in the last three months to ensure that
desperately needed humanitarian aid does not get to many of the cold, hungry
millions in Afghanistan who need it to survive the winter. The problem
is not that the aid isn't already in that country or right over a nearby
border; rather, the problem has been a failure by the U.S. and its allies to
create conditions such that relief agencies can actually distribute the
supplies to the people who need them.
In October, U.S. bombing
brought a halt to truck aid convoys. Such truck convoys were widely
accepted as the only way to move enough tonnage of food and other supplies
to meet the gargantuan needs in Afghanistan. But the Bush administration refused the request by
humanitarian officials to temporarily halt its bombing campaign in order to
allow the truck convoys to resume their deliveries.
Innocent Afghan civilians
died because the U.S. rejected the bombing pause.
Then in November, after
Mazar-i-Sharif fell, the amount of food being delivered didn't increase, but
actually dropped 50% as lawlessness overtook the roads, and the truck
drivers refused to drive. European nations were reportedly eager to
send thousands of troops to restore order and facilitate aid shipments, but
the U.S. opposed
the idea. In other words, not only would the U.S. not commit its own
troops to such a mission, but it refused to allow the European nations to do
so. A Bush administration statement disingenuously worried that
conditions were too dangerous for such a mission. Too dangerous for
thousands of European soldiers whose nations were willing to send
More refugees unnecessarily
perished from lack of relief aid.
Continuing this obscene
progression, in December the mass media finally got around to telling us
that the dictator of Uzbekistan, since the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, had refused to open the Friendship Bridge, the
only way to get the huge stockpiles of relief supplies in his country into
Afghanistan. After the story broke, within 2 days Secretary of State
Colin Powell put enough pressure on the dictator to open the bridge.
Prior to that, the news reports sadly informed us, still more had
All this brings us up to the
present, at which point, one would normally have assumed, the aid would
finally be flowing effectively to those who need it. As you might
expect by now, wrong again.
As just reported
in The New York Times, large sections of Afghanistan are still
completely lawless, with murderous bandits making road travel between major
cities impossible. So once again, aid is not getting through to many
who need it in these areas.
And once again, the
international community is failing to act responsibly. The British
marines who have arrived in Afghanistan as the vanguard of an international
peacekeeping force, will, along with the rest of the force, have an
extremely narrow mandate: solely to help maintain the security of Kabul, the
The international mission,
however, is just as noteworthy for what it will not do. It will not
protect the major routes that connect Kabul to Kandahar and Jalalabad,
where bandits have scared off aid convoys, killed journalists and
otherwise made travel between Afghanistan's main cities risky. Nor is it
yet clear if the force will ever protect other towns and areas in
Afghanistan, where many Afghans live in a lawless no man's land largely
cut off from international aid.
In short, Britain's cadre
of elite troops and the other European and Muslim troops who are expected
to join them are on duty in an already peaceful capital, where from the
standpoint of security they are needed the least.
Would providing security
outside of Kabul be that hard? Would bandits be willing to stand up to
heavily armed, real soldiers? Those familiar with the situation don't
"Because of violence
out on the roads, people are afraid and there is not much travel,"
said Muhammad Naim Rassa, an Afghan administrator at Action Contre la
Faim, a French relief agency that distributes food in and around Kabul.
"The bandits are small groups. They would not be a threat if they
were challenged. If the United Nations security forces were visible there,
I think these bandits would go away."
It is just mind-boggling that
with the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of men, women and
children at stake, the U.S. and its allies have not made it a top priority
to ensure that adequate relief supplies reach those in need.
Such a failure was bad enough
while the fighting was actively going on. That such a situation has
continued since the fighting ended, evidences unprecedented levels of
callousness, cowardice or some pernicious combination of the two.