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Nowhere to Turn: The Failure to Protect Civilians in Afghanistan

Security for the vast majority of Afghans is rapidly deteriorating. As 29 aid organizations working in Afghanistan, we are deeply concerned about the impact of the escalating conflict on civilians. It is likely that increased violence in 2011 will lead to more civilian casualties, continue to fuel displacement, cut off access to basic services and reduce the ability of aid agencies to reach those who need assistance most. This paper does not attempt to address all aspects of the current conflict. It concentrates on those that negatively impact civilians, particularly in the context of transition to Afghan responsibility for security. While this paper primarily focuses on the actions and strategy of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), it is important to remember that armed opposition groups (AOG), who are stronger and control more territory than at any time since 2001, also have clear obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) to protect civilians.  As such, this paper will make reference to AOG actions and issue recommendations to AOG where applicable. As world leaders meet in at the NATO summit Lisbon, we strongly urge them, along with all parties to the conflict, to minimize the harm to civilians and reduce threats and disruptions to basic services and development and humanitarian activities across Afghanistan. In addition, ISAF should do much more to ensure that ANSF, as they take on greater responsibility for security, fully respect human rights and the laws of war.

A Joint Briefing Paper by 29 Aid Organizations Working in Afghanistan for the NATO Heads of Government Summit, Lisbon, November 19-20, 2010

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For media inquiries please contact:
Christopher Allbritton at +1 (917) 310-4785 or chris@civiliansinconflict.org