Afghan war 'worsening' for civilians


The Afghanistan war is getting worse for civilians, with armed groups on the rise across the country and access to healthcare deteriorating as foreign combat troops depart, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

Outgoing head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan Reto Stocker, a seven-year veteran of Afghan aid efforts, said as the Nato-led war against the Taliban dragged into a 12th year, the outlook for ordinary Afghans was increasingly bleak.

"Since I arrived here in 2006, local armed groups have proliferated. Civilians have been caught between not just one, but multiple front lines," Mr Stocker told journalists in Kabul.

A security analysis prepared by the International Crisis Group think tank, also released today, said President Hamid Karzai's increasingly unpopular government could collapse after the Nato withdrawal, especially if people lost confidence in the outcome of presidential elections the same year.

"Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when US and Nato forces withdraw in 2014," the ICG said.

"In the current environment, prospects for clean elections and a smooth transition are slim."

Adding to Mr Karzai's woes, Western diplomats in Kabul say donors who together promised civilian aid worth $16 billion over the next four years tied to serious efforts to combat endemic corruption, are losing hope that the government will deliver.

"Several countries are seriously considering pulling the plug," said one senior envoy.

Mr Karzai's chief spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said the ICG report had been discussed in a regular cabinet meeting today and dismissed by senior ministers as "baseless and far from realities on the ground".

With Nato combat forces due to depart in 2014, aid groups and some Western diplomats are worried about a repeat of the vicious 1990s civil war that raged between rival ethnic-based factions, giving rise to the austere Taliban government.

Some security and aid workers in the north, once a centre for anti-Taliban resistance and where most of Afghanistan's untapped oil and gas resources are located, say insurgents and other armed groups are preparing for a security vacuum after the exit of foreign forces.


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