International Red Cross to 'drastically' cut Afghanistan presence after attacks

Afghan men unload a coffin of an International Committee of the Red Cross employee, who was killed by gunmen in Jwzjan province, at a hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on Feb 8, 2017.
Afghan men unload a coffin of an International Committee of the Red Cross employee, who was killed by gunmen in Jwzjan province, at a hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan on Feb 8, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL (REUTERS) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will "drastically" cut back its operations in Afghanistan following attacks that have killed seven of its staff this year, the aid group said on Monday (Oct9).

The announcement underlines the deteriorating security for aid groups in Afghanistan, where the ICRC has been operating for more than 30 years and has been running its fourth biggest humanitarian programme.

"Exposure to risk has become our greatest challenge and concern," Monica Zanarelli, head of the ICRC in Afghanistan, told a news conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

"We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence in Afghanistan," she said, adding that the decision would particularly affect operations in the north, where facilities in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz would be closed or downsized.

While noting that ICRC was not "leaving" Afghanistan, she said it was necessary to review the organisation's presence to prevent more losses.

The Red Cross had already warned of the threat to its operations following a series of attacks over the past year.

In February, six of its staff were killed in an attack on an aid convoy in the far north and last month, a Spanish Red Cross physiotherapist working in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif was shot dead by one of her patients.

 

In addition, four of its staff have been abducted over the past year.

According to US military estimates, the government controls no more than 60 per cent of the country, with the rest either controlled or contested by the Taleban and other insurgent groups.