Humanitarian directed violence in Afghanistan : neutrality and humanitarian space : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Philosophy in the Institute of Development Studies at Massey University, New Zealand
The increased violence towards humanitarian workers represents an insidious trend throughout Afghanistan. Humanitarian workers have become legitimised targets since the 2001 US led invasion of Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom.
The increased identification of NGOs with Western military forces and the Afghan government makes the aid community a target by association, whether it is a real or perceived association by the belligerents. Neutrality for NGOs in Afghanistan has been lost.
Overwhelmingly, authors and aid practitioners make clear statements about NGOs being legitimised for violence due to the perception of complicity, propagated by either the armed forces themselves or Coalition political leaders. However, army officers involved in the civilian-military relationship are dismissive of the NGOs plight and believe the issue of NGO neutrality to be overplayed.
Indeed the Coalition’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams and the NATO commander in Afghanistan believe that the lack of co-ordination or pooling of NGOs’ resources with the military or one another is an impediment to development and improving the security in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have gained de facto military control over a growing number of provinces, emanating from the South with humanitarian space in that environment diminished so as to be non-existent.
The civilian-military relationship is not responsible for the loss of humanitarian space in its entirety. Opium production, warlord-ism, banditry, corruption, conflict of cultures, religion, and external funding of terrorism marry to produce a uniquely hostile environment not conducive to humanitarian intervention. The lack of heterogeneity between what NGOs agree is acceptable collusion in a civilian-military context also makes it unlikely that accepted operating procedures will be adopted by the civilian humanitarian community as a whole.