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Afghanistan: ICRC expatriates on standby in Pakistan

16-09-2001 News Release 01/32

Geneva (ICRC) - As of today, 16 September, all International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expatriate personnel in Afghanistan have left the country. They will remain on standby in Pakistan. This is a temporary measure which will remain in effect until the organization receives renewed security guarantees from all the competent authorities.

This decision was taken as a result of continuous assessments of the security situation on the ground and after being informed by the Taliban authorities that they are currently unable to guarantee the safety of ICRC staff. The ICRC had been gradually reducing its expatriate staff presence throughout the country since 12 September.

" Such decisions are always extremely difficult for us to take but we want to see them as temporary measures. We hope to be able to return as soon as possible,” said Olivier Durr, ICRC head of operations for Afghanistan. " The security risks at the moment are too high and we have to take all necessary precautions. "

For the time being, ICRC operations in Afghanistan will be directed from Peshawar, in neighbouring Pakistan, where an ICRC office already provides logistical and technical support to the organization’s Afghan programmes. Field trips into Afghanistan to check on ICRC activities there and make further assessments of the situation will be carried out as often as security conditions allow. " We must remember that the needs of the Afghan population are immense. Therefore, we have to do our best to keep providing the assistance that is most urgent, " said Durr.

The ICRC’s 1,000 Afghan employees will continue to supply medicines and surgical materials t o hospitals, clinics and first-aid posts. The ICRC physical rehabilitation centres will also remain open and continue to treat urgent cases.

The ICRC's food stocks in Kabul will be used to continue a much-needed World Food Programme assistance project implemented through local bakeries.