Security in Afghanistan Is Deteriorating, Aid Groups Say

Monday, September 20, 2010

by Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News International Correspondent

KABUL, Afghanistan (Worthy News)-- Despite an increase in US troops, Afghanistan is becoming more dangerous, according to humanitarian groups operating there.

As NATO forces shift south to battle the Taliban, the Taliban shifts north into regions of Afghanistan that were once considered safe to travel; an attack on an unarmed Western medical team in that part of the country in August killed 10 people: it was one the worst massacres of aid workers in Afghanistan.

"The humanitarian space is shrinking day by day," said Abdul Kebar, a CARE official in Afghanistan.

With the exception of only one province, the Taliban has compromised security for the entire country; the Afghan N.G.O. Safety Office said Afghanistan is more dangerous today than it was a nearly decade ago.

"We do not support the perspective that this constitutes 'things getting worse before they get better,'" said Nic Lee, director of the Afghan N.G.O. Safety Office, "but rather see it as being consistent with the five-year trend of things just getting worse."

Humanitarian organizations claimed they can still serve Afghans in most provinces, but have restricted their movements, sometimes leaving dangerous areas altogether: they employ native workers, avoid travel by road and operate in secret. As a result, while insurgent attacks have more than doubled since last year, attacks on N.G.O.'s have decreased by 35 percent, said Lee.

CARE has 10 offices in the country to manage its 1,000 employees, but its own international staff members can only safely visit half of them, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Rowell.

Although Oxfam doesn't openly display its sign anywhere in Afghanistan, the Brit-based aid group still finances projects through native Afghan staffers.

"Most N.G.O.'s don't send foreigners to most places any longer," said Ashley Jackson, director of policy and advocacy for Oxfam, which now subcontracts much of its work in the provinces to Afghan aid groups.