Posted By: Erica
I’ve shared several stories so far about those who have benefitted from the USAID-funded Afghan Civilian Assistance Program (ACAP), such as Masood and Hazi. As mentioned before, though, this is not the only program benefitting civilians in Afghanistan. In late 2006, several NATO countries chipped in to fund the Post-Operations Humanitarian Relief Fund (POHRF) – a fund providing emergency relief to civilian victims of ISAF operations. This is huge in terms of signaling the importance of making amends, helping where you’ve harmed. But this fund would carry a lot more weight if it were supported by all NATO member countries in Afghanistan. So far it is only supported by nine countries: Australia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Iceland and the United States.
Beyond the symbolic value of having universal support, the POHRF fund is starting to run out of money. So in the past few weeks, I’ve been pounding the pavement at embassies around Kabul to try to secure more funding and broader country support. On Thursday, I had two such meetings, one with an Ambassador here and one with a European funding officer who sometimes deals with civil-military program issues. The Ambassador was personally enthusiastic and officially positive that his government might donate to POHRF. My meeting with the European funding officer, Mr. S, was a more mixed bag, however.
I got Mr. S’s name from another funding officer in the same diplomatic mission as his. She told me that emergency relief for civilian casualties was “too military” for the bundle of funding she oversaw but that Mr. S worked with funding for projects related to military Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). When I met Mr. S, though, his reply was similar to his counterpart’s. For Mr. S, the military aspect of POHRF was fine but POHRF was not focused on government institutions enough to be eligible for the funding he controlled. I asked him if he knew any other officials that might be able to help me and he tossed out a couple of names only to decide that the POHRF program was alternately “too quick impact”, “too tactical,” and “too political” to be eligible for the funding sources they oversaw. Frustrated, I finally asked him who within his diplomatic mission did take responsibility for civilian casualties. He said he would get back to me.
Unfortunately, Mr. S’s response is far more typical than the Ambassador’s. The idea of getting warring parties to help those they hurt is sadly still a new and controversial idea.