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AFGHANISTAN HUMANITARIAN AID

U.S. & Allies -- Cowards All -- Still Fail to Provide Protection for Humanitarian Aid Convoys

How Many More Must Unnecessarily Die?

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 them? 

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 unnecessarily died.

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 capital.

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 think so:

"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.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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