CARE says no substitute for security in Afghanistan

ATLANTA (Jan. 13, 2003) - "Military engagement in reconstruction is no substitute for security," the humanitarian organization CARE said in an Afghanistan policy brief issued today. "Only international military forces can fill the immediate security gap in Afghanistan today." The organization, which has been fighting poverty in Afghanistan for 30 years, believes that now is not the time for U.S.-led Coalition forces to sacrifice a focus on security for reconstruction work that could and should be coordinated through civilian channels.
Despite repeated pleas from ordinary Afghans, politicians and even regional commanders, the international community has chosen not to expand peacekeepers beyond Kabul. Instead, the U.S. led Coalition has announced plans to increase the use of reconstruction assistance projects as a tool for promoting security and political stability in Afghanistan. The current proposal is to deploy Provincial Reconstruction Teams, each consisting of a modest number of combat soldiers, civil affairs soldiers and civilian U.S. government officials, to some 7-10 Afghan cities to assess needs and determine the appropriate responses. "It remains doubtful, however, that this incremental approach will adequately address Afghanistan's pressing security problem," the report contends.

"With more than 200,000 armed men, militia commanders outside of Kabul have filled the gap left by the lack of an Afghan army or an international peacekeeping force," says Kevin Henry, Advocacy Director for CARE and one of the authors of the report. "They will continue to grow in strength and influence unless the international community commits additional financial support. An international peacekeeping force must be deployed now to key locations outside Kabul until the Afghan National Army reaches full strength. Demobilization of militias and training for the national army and the police force must be stepped up."

Only 2-3,000 recruits have been trained to date in the Afghan National Army and about half of them have deserted, leaving behind 1,400 as of Nov. 24, 2002. Training and retention rates will have to be dramatically increased if an effective and representative Afghan security force is to be fully deployed in less than a decade, the report finds.

A complete copy of the report, which lays out five recommendations to remedy the security vacuum in Afghanistan, is available here. (pdf* format - 315 KB) To schedule interviews with its authors, Afghanistan Advocacy Coordinator Paul O'Brien, Advocacy Director Kevin Henry and Afghanistan Country Director Paul Barker, contact Alina Labrada at (404) 457-4644.