I leave on Saturday from Cairo to Dubai, the main port of entry to Kabul. Before I leave, I thought I’d send another quick note on some of the work I hope to accomplish on behalf of CIVIC in Afghanistan.
For those of you have been following CIVIC’s work, you already know there have been some amazing successes. Yet there are still many new opportunities for getting help to the thousands of Afghans who have suffered in the recent conflict. In its last appropriations cycle, Congress announced that it would earmark $2 million for the Post Operations Humanitarian Fund (POHRF). Seven NATO countries have also contributed to the fund aimed at helping victims of NATO combat operations in Afghanistan. (Read more about the POHRF program).
One of my main jobs for CIVIC in Afghanistan will be to dig a little deeper into how these funds are distributed and kept track of – how are the civilian losses recognized and investigated? Are funds distributed ad hoc or is there a system to ensure that they are distributed equitably? What kind of training do soldiers receive in recognizing a claim and ensuring that it is reported to the right person?
One huge goal is to make sure that all NATO members are on board with this fund. So far only seven NATO countries have contributed to the POHRF fund. It is important for all NATO countries to get behind this initiative, not only to ensure that the fund meaningfully addresses the civilian costs of NATO operations in Afghanistan, but also to emphasize the moral imperative of treating civilian losses as something more than incidental or “collateral” damage, but as the true costs of war. Where do the other NATO countries stand on this fund? Would they be willing to contribute? Would they be willing to match or come close to matching the United States $2 million pledge?
The answers to some of these questions may be readily available in Afghanistan, but are hard to get a handle on from Washington, DC. For other issues, though, there will be no simple answers. I imagine that it will take a lot of brainstorming, a lot more field information, and a fair amount of cajoling in some cases, to make headway. Just looking at the slew of questions above is a little daunting. However, I am optimistic that with constant access to US and NATO officials in Afghanistan, and with the help of our many local and international partners on the ground, we can get the answers and the solutions that we need.
For now, I am focusing on the immediate task at hand — avoiding excessive baggage duties and surviving the Afghan airlines’ food service. I will be writing you next from Kabul.