United Kingdom: don't abandon the Afghans, Kabul delegation chief tells British policy-makers
The needs of ordinary Afghans must be remembered during and after the departure of international military forces, outgoing ICRC delegation chief in Kabul, Reto Stocker, told audiences in Britain last week.
Mr Stocker was in Britain to brief officials, legislators and policy-makers as he prepared to step down after seven years running the ICRC's operations in Afghanistan.
"Do not let the focus on military timetables and diplomatic settlements blind us to the humanitarian needs of Afghan civilians," Mr Stocker urged.
With the bulk of foreign military forces due to leave by the end of 2014 and conflict continuing to afflict many areas of the country, there is a risk that the fragile gains of the last decade – including better health care in some places, a nascent civil society and economic improvement – could be reversed.
"Morale among ordinary Afghans is crumbling as they ponder political and economic uncertainty ahead," continued Mr Stocker, "although a repeat of the large-scale population flight that Afghanistan saw in the 1980s and 1990s, when millions fled abroad, is not on the cards for now."
Transition to local control of security needs to be handled carefully to prevent conflicts igniting and frontlines proliferating. "The right to health care must be respected and local development initiatives should be encouraged, so that communities have a stake in their own futures," Mr Stocker concluded.
The ICRC has over 1,800 local and international staff at 15 offices across Afghanistan, and has been operating in the country since 1979.
The ICRC mission in London regularly hosts visitors from ICRC headquarters and field operations to explain what the organization is doing to protect and assist the victims of conflict.