Afghanistan: Displacement fears ahead of Kandahar operation
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||30 March 2010|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Afghanistan: Displacement fears ahead of Kandahar operation, 30 March 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4bb4bde51e.html [accessed 24 April 2014]|
KANDAHAR, 30 March 2010 (IRIN) - Mir Ahmad has decided to leave for Pakistan ahead of a much-heralded pro-government Afghan and foreign forces offensive against Taliban insurgents in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.
"I want to save my family no matter how difficult life could be in Pakistan," Ahmad told IRIN, adding that he was a refugee in Pakistan during the Soviet invasion (1979-1989).
Kandahar Province's estimated more than one million people, already affected by drought and conflict, could be in for a difficult and dangerous time, aid agencies say. Large-scale displacement is the most obvious risk.
The governor of Kandahar, Toryalai Weesa, has earmarked food and non-food aid for up to 5,000 displaced families, but there will be no camps.
"The government has decided that no camp will be established for the IDPs [internally displaced people] because it could attract people from everywhere and it would not be easy to close it after the military operation," Najibullah Barith, provincial director of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, told IRIN.
Officials say any conflict-related displacement would be temporary, and IDPs would be hosted by friends and relatives in Kandahar city or elsewhere.
Officially, the government has no, or very weak, control in four of Kandahar's 17 districts. However, people say the Taliban are present everywhere and have real authority.
A strategy of violence and intimidation deters people from working with the government: On 24 February they assassinated Abdul Majid Babai, director of Kandahar's cultural affairs department, as he was walking to his office.
"The Taliban assassinated my husband [a police officer] and have threatened to kill me because of my job," said Razeqa Nezami, a female teacher.
On 13 March the insurgents carried out a series of coordinated attacks which killed up to 35 people and wounded dozens.
US and NATO officials say the success of the forthcoming operation will not be achieved by military means alone.
"The main objective is to assert GIRoA's [Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan] authority in order to increase governance, development, stability and freedom of movement for the Afghan people living in and around the [Kandahar] city," Paul Scott, a NATO spokesman in southern Afghanistan, told IRIN.
He said the Kandahar operation would differ from the recent offensive in neighbouring Helmand Province as there would be no "D-Day" or starting date for it.
Tackling corruption and bad governance, which are believed to be alienating people from the government, are also deemed crucial.
"We will be unable to succeed in Kandahar if we cannot eliminate a vast majority of corruption there," Adml Mike Mullen, chairman of US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted in the media as saying on 30 March.
"Deteriorating security situation"
Meanwhile, the UN is taking security concerns seriously.
"On 19 February, the UN Secretary-General approved a move to Security Phase IV in the South in recognition of the deteriorating security situation in the region," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a 30 March report.
The new security phase includes placing "a ceiling on the numbers of international staff in Kandahar and Tirin Kot; no international staff presence in Helmand, Zabul, or Nimroz provinces; and a realignment of agency programs to focus on emergency operations, humanitarian relief, and security activities, and a downscaling of other activities," the report said.
The UN decision has been criticized by local NGO Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM): "The UN must seek reliable information from NATO and Afghan government about the location, scale and duration of major counter-insurgency operations and help draw appropriate response planning," ARM said in a 16 March statement, adding that aid workers should not be deterred by insecurity.
Wael Haj-Ibrahim, head of OCHA in Afghanistan, said UN agencies were not withdrawing from the south completely but were prioritizing humanitarian activities there.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which supports healthcare services for war victims through several local health structures, said it had expanded its operations in Kandahar Province.
"The ICRC is in constant contact with authorities in Afghanistan, including Kandahar, and stands ready to adapt its humanitarian response in relation to the needs as they may arise," Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, an ICRC spokesman in Kabul, told IRIN.