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Wednesday
Dec152010

ICRC in Afghanistan: Worst Conditions in 30 Years

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- One day before the White House releases its Af-Pak strategy review, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kabul on Wednesday held an extremely rare and downbeat press conference to declare that conditions in the country -- in terms of their ability to do their work -- hadn’t been this bad in 30 years, when the organization first arrived there.
 
"The proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to access those in need. Access for the ICRC has over the last 30 years never been as poor," said Reto Stocker, the country director. "The sheer fact the ICRC has organized a press conference...is an expression of us being extremely concerned of yet another year of fighting with dramatic consequences for an ever-growing number of people in, by now, almost the entire country.”
 
The ICRC doesn’t blame only the Taliban. It blames a collection of insurgent and criminal groups, which exploit huge pockets where there is no governance and no U.S. troops. And it predicts that the violence will be worse than ever in the spring -- a fact the U.S. military agrees with.
 
"In a growing number of areas in the country, we are entering a new, rather murky phase in the conflict in which the proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to reach the people who need their help," Stocker said. "One armed group may demand food and shelter in the evening, then, the next morning, another may demand to know why its enemy was given sanctuary."
 
ICRC says, in contrast to the military’s numbers, civilian casualties are increasing, especially where the surge is focused -- Kandahar. The ICRC runs the largest hospital in Kandahar City.

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