If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17
I am growing increasingly concerned about what has been termed, the Militarization of Aid.
Last week Dr. Christophe Fournier, the president of Doctor’s Without Boarders spoke out against the military control of aid saying that dispersing of food and medical supplies is usually done with strategic objectives in mind rather than humanitarian ones. Dr. Fournier cited Kabul, Afghanistan as an example where these supplies are still desperately needed but aren’t getting through because it is a politically stable area. Instead the military is diverting aid to outlying areas as a way to “win the hearts and minds of the people.” This policy is sure to backfire. Not only are they planting seeds of destabilization in the areas they neglect but by aligning with a military force in a hostile area humanitarian aid workers and even the recipients of aid are becoming targets themselves.
Of course the argument is that the humanitarian aid convoys need the protection of the military to do their work otherwise they wouldn’t be able to travel into some of these areas at all but is that really the case? What would happen if the Red Cross, or Red Crescent as it’s known in the Muslim world were to engage directly with the Taliban, no strings (or military convoys) attached?
Indeed what would happen if one man, acting alone, with a truck load of food were to set out from Kabul on a sort of Robin Hood mission to the first group of hungry people he met? Would he get shot or kidnapped? No – most likely he’d get arrested and brought back to the city for his own “protection”.
But what if he did manage to make contact with the locals? I think he’d be a hero and likely do more to win the hearts and minds of the people in one afternoon than the military could do in a month. Of course the other point is that he doesn’t need to set out from the relative safety of Kabul at all. There are plenty of hungry people right there in the city that aren’t receiving any assistance from the military and are slowly turning to the insurgency themselves.
This past week the United Kingdom hosted a conference on the future of Afghanistan in London. By my count there have been at least 5 such conferences held in various cities around the world since 2002, in Geneva, Rome and New York to name a few. There is always big talk about development and of weaning farmers off opium production but not once have we come away with any kind of concrete plan for addressing public health or food security. The conferences have never been held on Afghan soil and you cannot affect lasting change unless the most effected stakeholders are present.
It’s time to stop treating Afghans like children and give them a stake in their own future. Even invite some Taliban leaders to the table provided they aren’t affiliated with Al-Kida, and see what happens. If you truly want to win the hearts and minds of the people, put down your guns, pick up some bread and start talking.
What have these irreligious Christians come for that they write on their cards, “don’t approach, keep away”? If these bloody foreigners try to stay away from us, then for what reason have they come to our country? Posted on a pro-taliban website; Kabul, Afghanistan 2002