Thursday, January 29, 2009

German NGOs criticize military engagement in reconstructing Afghanistan

Venro, the German Association of NGDOs, criticize (pdf in German) the so called 'Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan under German command.

The teams, which usually consist of 250-300 soldiers plus some civil experts, aim to promote security and stability in the Afghan provinces and actively engage in reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, security sector reform and political dialogue with the Afghan population. According to Venro, these measures are meant to enhance the acceptance of the military thus increase force protection.

The German NGOs claim that the overlap of military and civil activities spoils the neutrality of NGOs thus worsening their security situation. While development actors are strictly guided by a humanitarian imperative, the German military which is increasingly engaging in combat missions follows clear political interests thus is part of the conflict environment.

The authors quote a statement by the International Red Cross: “The distinction between humanitarian, political and military action becomes blurred when armed forces are perceived as being humanitarian actors, when civilians are embedded into military structures, and when the impression is created that humanitarian organizations and their personnel are merely tools within integrated approaches to conflict management. "

The report demands that the German military concentrates on stabilizing and security activities which should primarily serve the Afghan population and leave humanitarian aid, reconstruction and development assistance to civil actors.

The report further argues that the advantages for force protection due to reconstruction activities of the military are hardly evident and are clearly outweighed by the risks for civil personnel. Additionally Venro demands a military exit strategy which would increase the credibility by showing that the international community is striving to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and does not only look for its own strategic interests.

by Martin Behrens

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