NGOs Call for Extension of ISAF Mandate

One World
June 21, 2002

Concerned over deteriorating security, international NGOs working in Afghanistan sent a stern letter on Thursday to the United Nations Security Council calling for an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into the north of the country.

"We, the NGO members of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), urge your support for the expansion of International Security Assistance Force to northern Afghanistan. Until a sufficiently large, equipped and trained national army is in place, expanding ISAF offers the only practical hope of a non-partisan security force in such areas," the letter said.

ACBAR also extended the call to the country's new president, Hamid Karzai, warning that if insecurity persisted, vulnerable Afghans would suffer, due to the fact that it would be difficult to deliver assistance to them. The NGOs highlighted the fact that there had been a disturbing increase in violence both against local populations in the north and the assistance community.

In the latest incident, two Afghan staff working with the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) were shot at and wounded in northern Afghanistan, raising fears of insecurity in that region of the country and forcing aid agencies to reconsider continuing to implement projects there. "This is the first time this has happened to any of our staff in the 20 years that we have been here," the acting country director for Afghanistan of SCA, Peter Bulling, told IRIN from Peshawar in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

The shooting, which happened on Sunday morning, took place as an SCA wells deepening team in a clearly marked truck was travelling along the road from Pol-e Begon to Rostaq, seven to eight kilometres from Rostaq city in the northern province of Badakhshan. The SCA convoy was carrying nine passengers and a heavy load of water supply material. It was stopped by a group of people, one of whom was an armed soldier, who demanded to be given a lift. After rejecting the request and starting to drive away, the truck was shot at.

The two male Afghan workers were injured in the arm and shoulder. "The workers were taken to Taloqan hospital immediately, but their wounds are not life-threatening," Bulling said, adding that local authorities had been contacted regarding the incident. "We need proper working conditions if we are to continue operating here," he stressed. "Security has deteriorated in this region so much, to the extent that we may have to reconsider where we run our projects."

Bulling explained that a letter calling for increased security had also been sent to the defence and interior ministries in the capital, Kabul. This incident followed news last week that an international aid worker was raped while on mission near the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, and that the number of attacks on relief workers and organisations in the region was on the increase.

SCA is one of the biggest NGOs working in the northern region, with some 8,000 employees providing services in health, water, education and agricultural support.

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