Thursday, August 09, 2007

Afghanistan- NGOs question new government directive on armed escorts IRIN Asia | Asia | Afghanistan | AFGHANISTAN: NGOs question new government directive on armed escorts | Governance Conflict Aid Policy | News Item

'Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior has ordered Afghan security forces not to allow foreign aid workers to travel outside Kabul without an armed escort.'

In the aftermath of the ongoing hostage crises in Afghanistan, the move was probably inevitable, as are the reactions by NGOs:

'...The Afghan security authorities have repeatedly requested all foreign aid workers to seek their advice before travelling beyond Kabul city.

“We would not be facing the current crisis if the Koreans had informed us about their travel plans in advance,” said Zemarai Bashari, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry (MoI). “We could have provided them with an armed escort for their protection,” he added.

The government of Afghanistan has expressed it readiness to provide armed police escorts for international staff who would like to drive out of the capital, officials said.

However, representatives of local and international NGOs have dubbed the government’s extra security measures “disproportionate” and “counterproductive”.

“Armed escorts will undoubtedly make NGOs a legitimate target for anti-government elements,” said Hashim Mayar, deputy director of ACBAR - a coordination umbrella for NGOs in Afghanistan.

Mayar also said that in light of criticisms of widespread corruption and inefficiency within the MoI, many NGOs fear disclosing an advanced itinerary to the Afghan police, fearing it would increase possible risks.

Matt Waldman, an adviser to the UK charity Oxfam, said: “Whilst we understand the reasons for this move, we believe it is disproportionate and could have adverse consequences for development works, particularly in rural areas.”'

Disproportionate does seem to characterize many aspects of this story. In particular, how many agencies were truly working far outside the relative safety of Kabul (or other urban centres...) and as such would truly be affected by this travel restriction- if we can even call it that- ?