On to Paris…

Posted By: Erica

On June 12, the French government will host 60 major donors, foreign governments and non-governmental actors, at the Paris Donor Conference for Afghanistan. The Afghan government will be asking the international community to commit to $50 billion in aid for the coming years.  We at CIVIC wanted to make sure that at least part of that commitment goes to help those Afghan families and communities caught in the past and ongoing conflict. This weekend I attended the civil society forum on Afghanistan, where NGOs and members of the private sector had a nominal opportunity to provide recommendations and guidance for those representatives deciding the international community’s commitment in June.

Indiscriminate use of force

Posted By: Erica

On March 4, 2007, a US Marine convoy killed 19 Afghan civilians and wounded 50 others in one of the worst incidents of indiscriminate fire on Afghan civilians. Fleeing the scene of a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad city, the Marines fired arbitrarily at passing civilians on the crowded highway, including those civilians who had pulled over to the side of the road to let the convoy pass.

UN Special Rapporteur speaks out

Posted By: Erica

For the past two weeks the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary executions has been in Afghanistan on a fact-finding mission (See here for a Special Rapporteur definition). His mandate is to look into all violations of the “right to life” in Afghanistan, and provide recommendations for improving respect for this international obligation.

Aiding Garmsir’s refugees

Posted By: Erica

Since the end of April, hundreds of Afghan families have fled the Garmsir region of Helmand province due to fighting between insurgents and US-led forces. High estimates by the Afghan Red Crescent Society and by the UN agency for refugees in Afghanistan have suggested that as many as 1000 families have fled. Other media and NGO sources I spoke to reported displacement of a few hundred families. The US military spokeswoman I spoke to, Kelly Frushour, suggested the military only saw a few hundred people displaced.

Tora Bora, Part 2

Posted By: Erica

When I met Nazir and Amin they were doing much better – they had received assistance from ACAP (the US funded program that supports war victims) that allowed them to run their own family grocery businesses. Although they were satisfied with the assistance and their current situation, I could not help worrying about the effectiveness of such aid so many years after the initial incident. Nazir and Amin did not receive assistance until seven years after their family members died at Tora Bora. That’s because the program didn’t exist when they were first harmed. Now aid gets to families quickly, but back then, they were left with nothing for too long. So, even if it was the right thing to do, I wondered if all these years later the assistance was too little, too late?

Tora Bora, Part 1

Posted By: Erica

In December 2001, the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan were believed to be the last refuge of Osama bin Laden. US air strikes barraged the Tora Bora area, dropping hundreds of bombs and artillery shells. Unfortunately, Bin Laden and associates were not the only ones hiding in the caves. Though sparsely populated, the Tora Bora area had been home to Afghan families for generations. When the bombing began, many of the families fled to refugee camps in Pakistan but not everyone made it out.

A few weeks ago I talked to Nazir, who lost family members in the Tora Bora bombings. He said half of his family had fled to Pakistan but that his brother stayed behind with his family in Tora Bora. Every night, he and his family would listen to the BBC and Voice of America on the radio for news of what was happening just across the border. One night he heard the news about Tora Bora and immediately headed back into the conflict zone to find out what had happened to his family. “I went from vehicle at first, then by foot. It took me two days,” he said. It is normally a 5 hour journey or less.