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Post Nato pullout Afghan future is bleak, warns Red Cross chief

Tuesday, 9 October 2012 - 1:03pm IST | Place: Kabul | Agency: The Daily Telegraph
With the Taliban undefeated and the government weak and corrupt, Stocker is worried that the country may again plunge into a civil war.

The Afghan conflict is getting worse for civilians and the country is facing a humanitarian crisis, warned Reto Stocker, the outgoing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan on Monday.

Stocker said he was "filled with concern" as he prepared to leave after seven years and hope for the future among Afghans had been "steadily declining". The assessment from one of the largest humanitarian charities in Afghanistan sharply contradicts Nato claims of progress in the 11-year campaign to defeat the Taliban and rebuild the country.

Stocker's remarks followed a recent rash of similarly bleak forecasts for Afghanistan's future as Nato troops withdraw and prepare to hand over security duties to Kabul by the 2014-end.
Stocker said since he had arrived in 2005, "local armed groups have proliferated, civilians have been caught between not just one but multiple front lines and it has become increasingly difficult for ordinary Afghans to obtain health care".

"Hardship arising from the economic situation, or from severe weather or natural disaster, has become more widespread, and hope for the future has been steadily declining," Stocker added.

With the Taliban undefeated and the government weak and corrupt, many Afghans are acutely concerned that the country could again plunge into civil war as thousands of Nato troops leave. Stocker spoke on the same day that an International Crisis Group report warned that the Afghan government may fall apart as early as 2014.

Candace Rondeaux, the group's senior Afghanistan analyst, said: "There is a real risk that the regime in Kabul could collapse upon Nato's withdrawal in 2014. The window for remedial action is closing fast." And if the 2014 presidential election is mired with the same fraud as that won by Hamid Karzai in 2009, the resulting constitutional crisis could fracture both the country and the security forces. "The Afghan army and police are overwhelmed and under-prepared for the transition," she said, while adding that, "Another botched election and resultant unrest would push them to breaking point."

Last month, Gilles Dorronsoro, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, predicted that, after 2014, foreign support would be so slight that "after a new phase in the civil war, a Taliban victory will likely follow".

Karzai's spokesman dismissed the ICG report as "baseless".

The Afghan president has faced so many predictions of chaos that last week he accused the international media of waging "psychological warfare" against his government. The doom-mongering was to put pressure on him to accept permanent US military bases, he said.

The international community hopes that, by continuing to fund the Afghan forces and administration and by keeping a scaled-down deployment of 10,000 to 20,000 Nato troops after 2014, it can still prop up the country.

Donors in Tokyo earlier this year promised civilian aid worth $16?billion (pounds 10?billion) over the next four years and Nato is trying to find another $4?billion a year for the police and army.

But diplomats worry that donors are wearying of Mr Karzai's unwillingness, or inability, to deliver reform and could refuse to pay.

The Daily Telegraph

081929 GMT Oct12


 




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