Thursday, September 08, 2016

15 years on, we must not let Afghanistan slide backwards - David Miliband

(CNN)- The civil war in Afghanistan is raging again. After almost 40 years of near-consecutive conflict -- from the Soviet invasion to the US-led war against the Taliban for its sheltering of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda post-9/11 -- Afghanistan is once again on the international emergency watch list.

As we mark 15 years since that tragic morning in Manhattan, it's right to ask what international efforts have achieved in Afghanistan and what challenges lie ahead.

Violence is escalating across the country at an alarming rate. The Taliban, at their strongest since the start of the US invasion in 2001, are leading a renewed insurgency in Helmand, Kunduz and beyond.  ISIS, a new foe, is securing its presence and honing the gruesome tactics employed in Syria and Iraq -- including the suicide bomb that killed 80 in the capital, Kabul, only a few weeks ago.

In 2015, there were 11,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan -- a record only set to be eclipsed this year, as the United Nations Assistance Mission confirms new extremes of violence. One in four of these casualties have been children.

Violations of international humanitarian law continue by various parties to the conflict, making Afghanistan not only the world's most dangerous setting for humanitarian and medical workers, but perpetuating the suffering of a population that has suffered enough. Already one of the world's poorest nations, worsening security and dwindling international investment have brought the Afghan economy to its knees. 

A staggering 1.2 million people are currently internally displaced, the highest number since the fall of the Taliban.  Afghanistan's 2.7 million refugees mostly reside in neighboring Iran and Pakistan, with hundreds of thousands -- possibly millions -- more residing there unregistered.

Unsurprisingly, Afghan families are undertaking the desperate trek towards Europe, making up a quarter of all arrivals in Greece -- but are amongst the first to be restricted entry into Europe as a flailing asylum and resettlement system teeters under pressure.

Today, the Afghan refugee population is the second-largest in the world, a dire accolade only recently surpassed by the mass flight from the horrors in Syria, and the single largest protracted refugee situation of our time.

At the time of writing, 8 million Afghans are in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, lacking enough food to feed their families, enough money to buy clothes or medicine, safe water to drink, and a secure place to sleep.

It is not enough to say that everything depends on a political settlement, and that can only be hammered out locally and regionally. Both points are true, but do not absolve the international community of the responsibility to sustain hope and dignity to some of the most beleaguered people in the world. Three points are vital.
Afghanistan needs more money
We must, firstly and as a point of urgency, increase the sheer amount of humanitarian aid directed at Afghanistan to meet immediate and overwhelming need. This year's UN appeal, a modest figure of $339 million, is barely 40% funded.

While the problem of underfunding extends beyond Afghanistan -- UN appeals are halfway funded on average, putting lifesaving assistance the world round at risk -- at the current level of financing, we are delivering $16 in humanitarian assistance to each Afghan in need for the entire year.

Even if fully funded, the appeal would deliver just over $40 in assistance per person. This level of investment is inadequate not only to meet the immediate needs of 8 million people, but to prevent the subsequent deterioration in humanitarian conditions. A concerted boost in humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan is of pressing importance.
Proper resettlement across Europe
The IRC is calling on the EU to commit to resettling 540,000 refugees over the next five years, a demonstration that Europe can take on a leadership role in this global displacement crisis and share responsibility for refugees in need. The United States must also increase its commitments to resettlement, doubling its current commitment and resettling 140,000 refugees in 2017. Resettlement is a life-saving activity, and more of it is urgently needed. - Read More
Opinion: Don't throw away hard-won gains in Afghanistan

Afghanistan: What you need to know about one of the world's long - More


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