Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

The myth and mystique of humanitarian space

“Humanitarian space is generally understood as a space that exists separate from politics,”

LONDON, 2 May 2012 (IRIN)

The phenomenon of ‘shrinking humanitarian space’ is earnestly debated by aid workers. The often-heard complaint is that neutrality and independence is increasingly compromised by donors, peacekeepers and warring parties seeking to to co-opt them, and they blame the growing toll of attacks on agency staff on the perception that they are no longer impartial.

Now two researchers from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London have waded into the debate, challenging the whole idea of ‘humanitarian space’ as the agencies define it, and criticising the lack of historical perspective of those who believe there was ever a humanitarian golden age, when neutrality was respected and agencies could work in conflict zones free of political considerations.

In their paper, Humanitarian Space: a Review of Trends and Issues, Sarah Collinson and Samir Elhawary do not deny that the total number of attacks on aid workers has increased. But they argue that the number of aid workers, and the scale of their operations have also increased – massively – in recent years. More than 200,000 field-based aid workers are now estimated to be employed by the UN and international NGOs, and it is not clear that they are proportionately more at risk than their far less numerous predecessors.

Agencies also now consider it normal to expect to be able to work in areas of conflict and have their neutrality respected. That was not always the case. In the 1950s and 60s, respect for national sovereignty kept UN agencies out of countries affected by war, and the refugee agency UNHCR only worked with people who had already left their homeland. In the 1970s, idealistic new NGOs defied sovereign governments and worked with rebel groups to help the oppressed.

In the 1990s international peacekeeping efforts became more assertive and interventionist, but, say Collinson and Elhawary, “many aid agencies accepted the need for ‘coherence’ between humanitarian and diplomatic and security agendas as long as they trusted the basic humanitarian intent of the main donor governments.” It was only after the 9/11 attacks in the US, little more than 10 years ago, that agencies got concerned about being co-opted into the much more explicit security agenda of the so-called Global War on Terror.

“Humanitarian space is generally understood as a space that exists separate from politics,” Elhawary told an audience at the ODI this week, “and that to reverse politicisation we need to return to a clear, solid and predictable model, namely that by upholding these principles, and remaining outside of politics, an agency’s access will be guaranteed. But all access is essentially based on political compromise and results from the interplay of a range of actors’ interests and actions…We undertook a brief historical review since the cold war, and we found no past golden age for humanitarian action.”

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May 2, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Casualties, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Kidnapped, NGO's, Safety and Security Issues, United Nations | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt Defies U.S. by Setting Trial for 19 Americans on Criminal Charges

The prosecution could hardly have been better designed to provoke an American backlash. Although the charges against the 19 Americans are part of a broader crackdown on as many as nine nonprofit groups here, its most prominent targets are two American-financed groups with close ties to the Congressional leadership, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. Both are chartered to promote democracy abroad with nonpartisan training and election monitoring.

The New York TImes February 5, 2012

CAIRO — Egypt’s military-led government said Sunday that it would put 19 Americans and two dozen others on trial in a politically charged criminal investigation into the foreign financing of nonprofit groups that has shaken the 30-year alliance between the United States and Egypt.

The decision raises tensions between the two allies to a new peak at a decisive moment in Egypt’s political transition after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak a year ago. Angry protesters are battling security forces in the streets of the capital and other major cities. The economy is in urgent need of billions of dollars in foreign aid. And the military rulers are in the final stages of negotiations with the Islamists who dominate the new Parliament over the terms of a transfer of power that could set the country’s course for decades.

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February 6, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Egypt, Humanitarian Assistance, Legal Jurisdictions, Safety and Security Issues, USAID | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tough post-revolution reality for NGOs in Egypt

CAIRO, 25 October 2011 (IRIN)

Egyptian NGOs hoping for greater freedoms and more space to operate after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government say they have encountered just the opposite: an unprecedented clampdown by the post-revolution military rulers.

“Following Egypt’s historic protests calling for basic political freedoms, it is deeply disturbing that the Egyptian military has targeted Egypt’s democracy and human rights community in ways not even dared during Mubarak’s despotic rule,” wrote Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

The first parliamentary elections since Mubarak’s fall are scheduled for 28 November, but NGO leaders say the transitional government led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has mounted a “smear campaign” against them by accusing them of receiving millions of dollars from foreign donors to destabilize the country – going so far as to say the violence on the streets of Cairo during and after the revolution was supported by foreign funding channelled through NGOs.

Many of the local organizations being targeted intended to monitor the upcoming elections, but have been prevented from doing so by the Electoral Commission. SCAF has already banned foreign groups from monitoring the vote

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October 26, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Egypt, NGO's | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Billions Down the Drain in Useless US Afghan Aid

Kabul by Patrick Coburn

Beautiful but fake photographs are often the only evidence that companies have carried out expensive aid projects located in parts of Afghanistan too dangerous for donors to visit.

“I went to see a food processing plant in the east of the country which was meant to employing 250 women,” says an Afghan who used to work for an American government aid organization. “We had started the project and were paying for the equipment and the salaries. But when I visited the site all I found was a few people working on a vegetable plot the size of a small room.”

When he angrily complained about the non-existent plant he was told by a local official to keep his mouth shut. He said that “if I did not keep quiet there would be trouble on the road back to Jalalabad – in other words they would kill me.”

As President Obama prepares his review of how his Afghan strategy is working to be issued next week he is likely to focus on military progress.

But the most extraordinary failure of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is that the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars has had so little impact on the misery in which 30 million Afghans live.  Since 2001 the US alone has provided $52 billion in aid, two thirds for security and one third for economic, social and political development.

Despite this some nine million Afghans live in absolute poverty while a further five million, considered ‘not poor’, try to survive on $43 a month.“Things look alright to foreigners but in fact people are dying of starvation in Kabul,” says Abdul Qudus, a man with a deeply lined face in his forties, who sells second-hand clothes and shoes on a street corner in the capital. They are little more than rags, lying on display on the half frozen mud.

“I buy and sell clothes for between 10 and 30 Afghanis (two to six cents) and even then there are people who are too poor to buy them, “ says Mr Qudus. “I myself am very poor and sometimes I don’t eat so I can feed my children.” He says he started selling second hand clothes two years ago when he lost his job washing carpets.

US officials admit privately that the torrent of aid money that has poured into Afghanistan has stoked corruption and done ordinary Afghans little good. Aimed at improving economic and social conditions in order to reduce support for the Taliban it is having the reverse effect of destabilizing the country. Afghanistan was identified as the third most corrupt country out of 178 in the world in a report released yesterday by Transparency International.

“The aid projects are too big, carried out in too short a time, and the places they are located are too remote,” says a diplomat. He recalled that he was unable to monitor a road construction project in Kunar province in the east, because he was not allowed for security reasons to visit areas where he and his team could not be protected by indirect fire. Afghan and Americans who have overseen aid projects agree that the ‘quick fix’ approach has been disastrous. Schools that local people may not need are equipped with computers in districts where there is no electric power or fresh water.

The flood of money has had little success in reducing economic hardship. “It has all messed up into one big soup,” says Karolina Oloffson, head of advocacy and communication for the Afghan NGO Integrity Watch Afghanistan. Aid organizations are judge by the amount of money they spend rather than any productive outcome.

“The US has a highly capitalist approach and seeks to deliver aid through private companies,” she says. “It does not like to use NGOs which its officials consider too idealistic.”

Big contracts are given to large US companies that are used to a complicated bidding process, can produce appropriate paper work, and are well connected in Washington. The problem is that much of Afghanistan is far too dangerous for these companies to carry out work themselves or monitor sub-contractors.

In his office in Kabul Hedayutullah, the owner of the Noor Taq-e-Zafar Construction Company, says that there is a simple reason why the quality of work is so poor. He says: “Let us say the main US contractor has a contract worth $2.5 million donated by a foreign government. He will take a 20 per cent administrative fee and find a sub-contractor, who will sub-contract to an Afghan company, which may sub-contract again. At the end of the day only $1.4 million may be there for building the project which is too little to do it properly.”

Progress of schemes is often monitored by photographs of work in progress. In one small but typical case an Afghan company was paid to build and get running a tractor repair shop in highly dangerous Oruzgan province in the south to give employment to local youth.

The contractor rented an existing tractor repair shop in Kandahar for the day and hired local young men to look as if they were busily fixing engines in the  shop. This was all photographed and the pictures emailed to the main contractor and the donor organization, both of which expressed high satisfaction at what had been achieved. “There is no intention to provide service,” says Mr Hedayatullah, “just to make money.”

There have been some successes. Kabul now has an almost continuous supply of electricity which comes from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan along wires hanging from newly built pylons that cross the Hindu Kush mountains. The US commander, Gen David Petraeus, is demanding that emergency generators supply continuous power to Kandahar.

But overall aid has done surprisingly little for most Afghans. Little of the money trickles down and much of it is monopolized by a tightly-knit group of businessmen, warlords and politicians at the top. Former Vice President Ahmed Zia Massoud is alleged to have been stopped entering the United Arab Emirates with $52 million in cash in a suitcase according US diplomatic documents leaked through Wikileaks.  Police chiefs and provincial governors all want a cut of the pie.

Yama Torabi, the co-director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, says it is not really possible to carry out development aid in areas of conflict where there is fighting, It might be better to stick to humanitarian aid.

This would be contrary to US military policy, pioneered in Iraq, whereby local US military commanders control substantial funds that can be used for local aid projects through the so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). But this militarization of aid means that the Taliban target schools built on the orders of a US commander.

“People see schools built by the Americans as American property,” says an Afghan who once worked for a US government agency. “They are frightened of sending their children there.” Overall it is doubtful that aid provided by PRTs does the US or other members of the foreign coalition much good because “villagers don’t forgive the US army for killing their sons just because it has built a road or a bridge.”

The US government policy of providing aid through large American private companies, whose interest lies in making a profit rather than improving the life of Afghans, is proving a failure in Afghanistan as it did previously in Iraq.

As winter approaches half of Afghans face the prospect of ‘food insecurity’, or not getting enough to eat in the next three months, according to the US Famine Early Warning System. The best use of aid money may be to subsidize food prices and help people like Mr Qubus, the old clothes seller, and his family from starving.  Please see the original here

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, NGO's, USAID | , , | 1 Comment

Afghanistan shuts down 150 Afghan, foreign aid groups

By Jonathon Burch      KABUL (Reuters) –

Afghanistan has ordered around 150 aid groups, including four foreign organizations, to shut down for failing to submit reports on their projects and finances, a government official said on Tuesday.

The ruling by a government-backed commission which monitors aid groups includes 145 domestic organizations and has immediate effect, said a spokesman for the Economy Ministry, which heads the commission.

The commission was established as part of an anti-corruption drive by President Hamid Karzai, who has long been critical of foreign organizations in Afghanistan and says they have been involved in widespread graft.

“The commission has decided the organizations should be dissolved because they have not submitted reports to the Ministry of Economy for the past two years,” ministry spokesman Sediq Amarkhil said.

Amarkhil said he did not know why the NGOs had failed to submit reports, but suggested it may be because they were not registered with the government.

According to Afghan law, non-government organizations (NGOs) must submit reports every six months to the ministry, disclosing details about their funding and activities, Amarkhil said.

WARNING LETTERS

None of the NGOs ordered to close had submitted those reports despite warning letters from the ministry, Amarkhil said, adding government institutions and other donors had been informed not to provide any funding to the groups.

Laurent Saillard, director of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella group for NGOs in Afghanistan, said they were presented with the list of groups and had no objections to their closure.

“The government is simply implementing the law. We don’t even know if some of these NGOs on the list even exist at all,” said Saillard, adding none of the groups came under ACBAR.

He said there were around 1,300 NGOs in Afghanistan, including 360 foreign organizations, employing 45,000 people.

In May, the commission shut down 172 NGOs, including 20 foreign groups, for the same reason. The government later that month suspended the activities of two Western aid groups on suspicion of proselytizing.

The latest ruling also comes after a decree by Karzai in August calling for all private security firms to be disbanded, a move which spurred concern in Washington that aid work could suffer.

Last month, Karzai offered a small concession to those firms guarding aid projects by extending the deadline from December until next February.

But ACBAR has said the ban would only affect profit-oriented development companies which rely on security guards for protection and would not hit the work of not-for-profit NGOs.

Please see the original article here

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, NGO's | , , , | 1 Comment

Afghanistan: Karzai Security Contractor Ban Could Assist Humanitarian Aid Work

October 28, 2010 – 2:24pm, by Aunohita Mojumdar Eurasianet.org

    President Hamid Karzai’s plan to shut down private security forces in Afghanistan has many military contractors and assorted peace-builders in a panic. But some humanitarian aid workers in the country contend that a ban isn’t such a bad idea.

    For years, non-governmental organizations operating in Afghanistan have condemned the militarization of humanitarian work, and have struggled to define a role that is distinct from the armed, for-profit development contractors in the conflict zone. Yet usually, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), contractors, humanitarians and development entrepreneurs have all been lumped together under the generic “aid worker” rubric. The Afghan government’s planned prohibition on private security companies (PSCs) could change that, helping to differentiate the humanitarians from other forms of development work.

    Foreign for-profit development contractors have threatened to pull out of Afghanistan, since the August decree issued by Karzai would prevent them from relying on private security companies for protection. Instead, they would have to depend on the Afghan National Police to provide security. The only exceptions would be for military bases and diplomatic missions.

    The ban was originally scheduled to take effect on December 17. But on October 27, Karzai agreed to push back the implementation deadline by two months. Karzai’s administration has come under intense pressure from Washington to relent on the ban.

    Representatives of various humanitarian aid organizations are not worried by the looming ban to anywhere near the same extent as are the for-profit contractors. Many have long been living with high risk in order to deliver their services. Some even say the demise of private security companies would be beneficial.

    “To the extent that it [the ban] helps to de-militarize the environment and to the extent that it reinforces the government’s monopoly on the use of force, I think ultimately it would be a positive thing,” Nic Lee, director of ANSO (Afghanistan NGO Safety Office), a non-profit humanitarian project that monitors safety conditions for the NGO sector, told EurasiaNet.org.

    “There is no type of armed action that is conducive to humanitarian activity,” Lee continued. “So the less armed activity you have is always going to improve humanitarian space and humanitarian access.”

    Many aid workers say they have a moral duty to work without armed protection in order to maintain their neutrality in a conflict zone. Of the 2,000 Afghan and 360 international NGOs operating across Afghanistan, “less than six use the services of a PSC, most commonly to provide unarmed guards at offices and homes,” according to ACBAR (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief), an NGO umbrella organization.

    In a joint statement issued with ANSO on October 25, ACBAR sought to distance the non-profit NGO community from for-profit contractors, emphasizing “the ban on PSCs will have no negative impact on aid delivery by the vast majority of humanitarian NGOs.”

    While NGOs rely on the communities where they work to ensure their safety, the for-profit “development contractors” often depend on PSCs. Donors support their work as part of NATO’s counter-insurgency strategy, thus bringing them between the military and Taliban militants, and also muddying the waters between non-profit humanitarian work and for-profit development.

    These private development contractors receive the bulk of donor money flowing into Afghanistan largely from the US government’s development arm, USAID. Thus, major donors like USAID have been scrambling for a way to keep their “implementing partners” in the country. Some large USAID contractors like DAI (Development Alternatives, Inc.) have said they would have to close down some projects, if the ban is implemented. Other private development companies have complained to the US Embassy that their employees “will vote with their feet.”

    Donors suggest that their ongoing discussions with the Afghan government will lead to a compromise. But Karzai, despite delaying implementation of the ban, still seems determined to lock private security firms out of Afghanistan, calling them a menace to stability.

    Employing development contractors is a fundamental part of Gen. David Petraeus’ much-touted counter-insurgency strategy. Petraeus, the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, is said to be lobbying Karzai’s government for an exception to the ban that covers a wide array of peace-building activities.

    Even the United Nations is reviewing its programs to assess the ban’s potential impact. With UNAMA (the UN’s umbrella organization in Afghanistan) playing an overt political role, the mission has suffered increasing attacks. An attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul last October left six international UN workers dead. On October 24, UN security repelled an attack on a UN guesthouse in Herat, killing four armed insurgents. The UN hopes its own security forces will be exempted from the new rule.

    Not all donors use private security companies. The Indian Embassy, which has suffered two massive suicide bombings in the past three years, uses a combination of ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police, an Indian government paramilitary organization) and Afghan National Police to guard the embassy, as well as its projects.

    The Canadian government also indicated that a ban would have a minimal impact on aid operations that it sponsors. “Most of our development assistance implementing partners do not use private security firms,” a spokeswoman for the Canadian Embassy said, adding that Ottawa had sought an implementation plan that would allow the international community to remain in Afghanistan while respecting the goals of the presidential decree.

    Please see the original story here

    Editor’s note:

    Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul. She has reported on the South Asian region for the past 19 years.

    October 28, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, NGO's, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, USAID | , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Kabul backs off private contractor ban

    At The Raw Story

    KABUL — The Afghan government Sunday rolled back its plan to disband all private security firms, declaring that those protecting embassies and military bases could maintain those operations in the country.

    President Hamid Karzai’s office said firms “providing security for embassies, transport of diplomats, diplomatic residences, international forces’ bases and depots can continue operation within these limits”.

    Karzai in August ordered that all private security contractors operating in the country, both Afghan and international, must cease operations by January 1, 2011.

    The decree led to widespread concern that the deadline was too tight to find alternatives amid a deteriorating security situation, and fears that some diplomats and private companies would be forced to leave Afghanistan.

    While the measure received widespread support in principle, diplomats, military officials and private security contractors have said Karzai’s government has been under intense pressure to reconsider the blanket ban.

    In a brief statement Sunday, Karzai’s office said that “concerns expressed by NATO commanders and foreign embassies about the dissolution of private security companies” had been considered.

    Firms not involved in military or diplomatic security would be dissolved as planned, it said.

    “Other private security companies pose a serious threat to internal security and national sovereignty, and the dissolution process will continue with no exception,” the statement said.

    Afghan officials have said that more than 50 private security firms, about half of them Afghan, employ tens of thousands of armed personnel across the country.

    Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in a 2001 US-led invasion, private security firms rushed in to fill a vacuum created by a lack of adequately trained police and army forces.

    In 2006 the Afghan authorities began registering, regulating and licensing the firms but there have been questions about the activities of some.

    The firms provide security to the international forces, the Pentagon, the UN mission, aid and non-governmental organizations, embassies and Western media companies in Afghanistan.

    But Afghans criticize the private security forces as overbearing and abusive, notably on the country’s roads.

    Please read the original story here

    October 17, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Aid workers’ security situation spurs talks on Afghan contractor ban

    Washington (CNN) Concerned a ban on security contractors in Afghanistan will curtail the efforts of development workers, the State Department is feverishly negotiating with the Afghan government about a set of conditions that will allow private security details to operate in the country, senior U.S. officials told CNN.

    The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said the United States is concerned about a four-month deadline Afghanistan’s president imposed last month to phase out the country’s 52 private security companies by year’s end. If implemented, the move would leave critical aid personnel unprotected and unable to continue their work, a key pillar of the U.S. strategy as it seeks to stabilize Afghanistan.

    The U.S. is in intense negotiations with the Afghan interior ministry for a “clarification letter” that would spell out a consistent and uniform set of guidelines by which contractors would be allowed to remain in the country and under what conditions they can operate. The guidelines should be finished within the next week, they said.

    Diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, rely on private forces to protect their compounds, and NATO uses private forces to guard convoys along their supply routes.

    Recent events, including the kidnapping and slaying of a British aid worker, have underscored the need for security to accompany aid workers.

    “The four-month deadline is going to be extremely difficult to meet,” one senior official said. “We have to be more realistic.”

    Officials said discussions over the past several weeks with the Afghan government about the phasing out of contractors have given the United States “very unclear” information about the fate of the contractors protecting nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on U.S.-funded projects.

    For years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the private security industry operating in his country — a mix of legally registered international companies and unregulated Afghan paramilitaries. Officials say they are sympathetic to his desire to phase out the illegal companies, but are concerned about the way Karzai has tried to address the issue by decree without any clarification.

    In the meantime, USAID officials from several NGOs say discussions have been under way about the need for contingency plans for their staffs in the event of the worst-case scenario, under which all contractors would have to leave the country.

    “We are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen,” the senior official said. “We hope it will be resolved shortly.”  Original story here

    October 12, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , | Leave a comment

    NATO’s Double Standard on Treating and Protecting Stabilization Forces in Afghanistan

    US should change its medical policy towards allied Afghan casualties
    Published on August 2, 2010  Psychology Today

    The charred remains of cars and motorcycles, from a recent suicide bomb, litters the parking lot adjacent to the heavily fortified Canadian military base in Kandehar—a graphic warning that the Taliban are at the Coalition’s gates.  A wave of recent attacks and assassinations targeting NATO allies has presented a serious challenge to the ongoing operations in Kandahar and to the consolidation of gains in neighboring Helmand province, even as Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, sets milestones for Afghan security during this week’s international conference in Kabul.  While media pundits and policymakers in Washington are focused on the military dimensions of this conflict, a far less dramatic battle is being fought daily by an army of civilian relief workers and development specialists struggling to win hearts and minds of a skeptical Pashtun population.  In the words of one development officer and former U.S. Army infantryman: “We are the frontline warriors in an asymmetrical war.”

    In contrast to the recent offensive in Marja, which has had lackluster results in dampening the Taliban insurgency, the battle for Kandahar has been relatively light on firepower.  It has instead focused on garnering goodwill among Kandahar’s population by supporting improved governance, infrastructure development, economic growth and employment.  As a result, the much vaunted thrust of the campaign has been principally a civilian effort, led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its partners.  The use of development-focused “soft-power” elements to enhance security is not new to U.S. Central Command strategists.  It has been a core component of General David Peterus’ successful counterinsurgency doctrine in Iraq and there can be no doubt that the Taliban are aware of the blurred line between civilian stabilization efforts and military engagements.  For this reason, the past several months have seen a surge in insurgent attacks against USAID-contracted partners who work on implementing development projects throughout southern Afghanistan.  The most dramatic of these attacks occurred in April in Kandahar city, when explosions devastated compounds used by employees of several USAID funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), causing over a dozen casualties, a number likely to increase with time as the psychological impact of the blasts takes it toll on the survivors.  Throughout the development community in Kandahar fear of explosive devices has been coupled with stories of Afghan staff resignations due to a campaign of intimidation by the Taliban.  One Afghan NGO employee reported that he had received a call telling him to “stop working with the Americans” or his family will be killed. Another Afghan talked of a coworker being gunned down by men on motorcycles, a preferred means of transport by Taliban assassins.  Not surprisingly, the rising trend of targeted violence has led to an exodus of NGOs and compelled a number of nonaligned humanitarian and international organizations, including the United Nations, to leave Kandahar altogether.  In addition, numerous thwarted attacks and near misses have had a devastating effect on the moral of civilians engaged in stabilization projects in this part of Afghanistan.

    Although the situation appears bleak, the ongoing military and political strategy of stabilizing Afghanistan’s Pashtun belt can still be successful, provided the Coalition takes concrete steps to bolster the position of its non governmental partners.  To begin with, ISAF forces and the private security firms protecting NGOs in southern Afghanistan need to have a formal and more integrated operational relationship to enhance the current level of security for development contractors until a more effective Afghan National Police force is established to ensure their security.  While formalizing the contractor-ISAF security liaison might not immediately diminish the rates and severity of attacks, it will enhance the general sense of safety amongst NGOs working in a volatile environment and extend their range of activities to more distant and less secure districts that might otherwise be avoided by private security contractors.

    On the medical front, steps should be taken to ensure that civilian contractors, both Afghan and international, obtain the same treatment, in terms of quality and length of care, that is offered to ISAF troops and USAID employees.  While USAID and ISAF might loath to be in the business of providing health care to their NGO partners, the current system of emergency medical stabilization in military clinics and discharge to civilian care is unacceptable.  Treatment of “stabilized” casualties in local hospitals often lead to disastrous outcomes in a country that faces a dearth of specialized medical manpower and lacks a formal medical licensure system.  Even if the patient is lucky enough to survive an invasive procedure, he/she will have to grapple with lethal nosocomial infections that abound Afghan hospitals.  This was demonstrated in the case of a young and dynamic Afghan woman who was shot during a recent Taliban attack on an NGO compound where she worked.  What should have been a routine surgical procedure in a civilian hospital turned into an unnecessary exploratory surgery that can best be described as an abdominal safari expedition..  As if that was not enough, she developed a severe infection which would have taken her life had it not been for the foresight of her employers who arranged for her rapid transfer to a European hospital that managed to save her life after a long period of convalescence.  It is absurd for Brussels and Foggy Bottom to ignore the medical welfare of NGO contractors injured in the line of duty while at the same time acknowledge their vital role in the ongoing military effort.  Reassuring development specialists that they will be fully cared for will improve moral and slow the hemorrhage of qualified individuals, especially Afghans, by showing them that they will not be abandoned in the face of injury caused by an enemy who sees them as being equal targets to the men and women in uniform.  These steps would strengthen the work of USAID partnered NGOs and allow them to be more effective agents of stabilization, without which any victory in southern Afghanistan will be short-lived, an outcome which the United States and its international partners cannot afford.

    August 2, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Contractor Casualties, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Licences of 172 NGOs in Afghanistan revoked

    KABUL, 11 May 2010 (IRIN) – The Afghan authorities have cancelled the operating licences of 152 national and 20 international NGOs, accusing them of not being accountable.

    “All NGOs have to report [their activities] to the Ministry of Economy [MoE] every six months but these NGOs have not reported for almost two years and therefore they [their operating licences] have been annulled,” Seddiq Amarkhil, MoE’s spokesman, told IRIN, adding that the NGOs had the right of appeal.

    Among the 20 international NGOs are Save the Children Japan, Afghan Children’s Relief Organization, International Dispensary Association and Samaritan’s Purse International Relief.

    Over 1,200 national and 301 international NGOs are currently registered in the country, the MoE said in a press release.

    President Hamid Karzai has been under a lot of pressure to tackle corruption in his government but officials are also pointing the finger of blame at foreign companies and local and international NGOs.

    May 11, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, NGO's | , , , | Leave a comment