Tony Blair has just completed his foreign visit to Afghanistan where, during talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, he said Afghanistan’s progress was remarkable. The Afghan President also commented on the sucesses acheived, including the return of refugees. But what do aid agencies, actually working on the ground have to say about the current situation?
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) issued a statement on the 3rd October:
UNHCR is concerned about the increasing number of people internally displaced in southern Afghanistan as a result of recent hostilities between government forces, NATO and insurgents. Since July, an estimated 15,000 families have been displaced in the southern provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand. This fresh displacement adds new hardship to a population already hosting 116,400 people earlier uprooted by conflict and drought…
…We expect further displacement may take place until conditions are safe for the population to return to their homes. Some families were reported to have gone back from Kandahar city to Panjwai and Zhare Dasht during daylight, but to have returned to Kandahar city at night as they felt it was too insecure to stay overnight. UNHCR has no information on population movements to other districts.
On the 27th October the international red cross (ICRC) chose to warn all parties to the conflict, including British and US forces, about infringments of international law and rising civillian casualties.
ICRC deplores increasing number of civilian victims
Geneva (ICRC) ‘ Hostilities have intensified in southern Afghanistan over the past two weeks between the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) on the one hand and the armed opposition on the other.
As a result, there is serious concern regarding the situation of civilians caught in the middle of the fighting. Aerial bombardment and ground offensives in populated rural areas, together with recent suicide attacks and roadside bombs in urban areas, have significantly increased the number of innocent civilians killed, injured or displaced.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) once more calls on all parties to the conflict to respect the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL).
IHL requires the parties to a conflict to maintain a distinction between fighters and civilians at all times. It also requires the parties to exercise constant care in the conduct of military operations and prohibits attacks directed against civilians or civilian objects. All parties to the conflict must at all times take all feasible precautions to spare civilians and their property from the effects of attack.
All the wounded must receive adequate medical treatment and captured fighters must be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law.
In view of the growing influx of casualties in the south of Afghanistan, the ICRC has sustained its support of Kandahar’s Mirwais hospital. In addition, the organization has replenished its own emergency stocks of essential household items so that it can help civilians affected by the hostilities. It is providing this assistance in conjunction with the Afghan Red Crescent Society.
ICRC delegates will continue to monitor the situation closely and stand ready to assist and protect civilians, visit and register detainees, and provide health care and vital supplies in response to any urgent needs.
So why, in these situations, are we regularly fed the official government line with so little critical analysis? Part of the answer may lie in one of the common myths of liberal democracy; the imparital nature of the BBC, which is neatly dissected on ZNet.