Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by CARE International UK


The Role of International Forces

  1.  After the establishment of the interim government, the United Nations Security Council authorised the dispatch of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghanistan. Under the terms of the Military Technical Agreement signed between the Interim Authority and the ISAF, the mandate of the international force is confined to Kabul and its environs.

  2.  Conditions in many parts of Afghanistan continue to give cause for grave concern. Although there has been success in transporting large amounts of food into the country, populations in many rural areas remain in acute need of food assistance. Many roads are blocked by snow. Continuing insecurity continues to hamper the efforts of aid agencies to reach areas of greatest humanitarian need.

  3.  In light of this situation, leaders of the Interim Authority have recently expressed interest in an expansion of the ISAF's geographic scope. CARE urges the international community to respond positively by renegotiating with the Interim Authority to expand the ISAF's mandate to areas outside of Kabul, including other major urban centres, as well as key routes needed to get aid to areas of acute need.

  4.  The Interim Authority faces an enormous challenge in improving security throughout Afghanistan. The single greatest contribution that the ISAF can make to Afghan reconstruction is to help the Interim Authority establish, train and monitor a professional national security force. CARE believes that the ISAF should focus its efforts on assisting Afghan authorities in creating and maintaining a secure environment in which humanitarian aid can be delivered, the transition to an elected, constitutional government can be sustained, and the reconstruction of the country can be started.

  5.  The military may bring useful expertise in other clearly defined areas, such as weapons collection, disposal of unexploded ordnance, or restoring airports and other important transport infrastructure to service. The military should focus on those activities in which they have a comparative advantage, leaving the actual delivery of humanitarian assistance, as well as most reconstruction activities, to local and international organisations that have long experience and established networks in Afghanistan.

  6.  In view of the fact that there is no shortage of appropriate functions for ISAF in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future, CARE notes with alarm the increasing tendency for military personnel to be involved in direct implementation of humanitarian aid projects. Both the British and US Governments, through DFID and OFDA respectively, have released funding to ISAF to carry out humanitarian activities. In some cases, field staff have reported seeing armed military personnel in civilian clothing working on such projects in an attempt to "integrate" with the community.

  7.  In Afghanistan the distinction between militias and civilians, armed and unarmed, is already blurred. It is a major obstacle to the establishment of peace, prosperity and democratic government. The international community should do nothing that further blurs that distinction, and should show by example that the forces of law and order have their proper role, as do the civilian institutions of society. Military personnel should therefore remain in uniform at all times.

  8.  CARE believes that it is important to maintain a clear distinction between military and humanitarian affairs. Overall strategy for and management of relief and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan should remain firmly under civilian control. CARE supports the expansion of the current role and mandate of ISAF, but it is neither necessary nor desirable that this should extend to the implementation of humanitarian relief or rehabilitation projects.

CARE International UK

22 February 2002

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