NZ team adds to Afghan aid problem

The Green Party is calling on the Government to reassess its involvement in military Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of the Medicins Sans Frontieres aid group from the war-torn country.

“The doctors’ aid group says the killing of aid workers in Afghanistan is partly due to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which represent the ‘cooptation of humanitarian aid by the [US-led] coalition for political and military motives’,” said Keith Locke, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“Our government can’t continue to ignore aid agency criticism of the PRTs, now that Medicins’ entire operation, with 80 international volunteers and 1400 local staff, has been closed down.

“No one is disputing that our soldiers may be doing useful humanitarian work in the militarily benign environment of Bamian province.

“However, by delivering aid in uniform, to win ‘hearts and minds’, PRTs across Afghanistan have undermined the civilian aid effort and done what the Russians, the Taliban and al-Qaeda couldn’t do in 24 years of terror and oppression — force Medicins Sans Frontieres out of Afghanistan.”

Mr Locke said the doctors’ group rightly complains that aid delivery in Afghanistan is ‘no longer seen as an impartial and neutral activity’, thereby ‘endangering the lives of humanitarian volunteers and jeopardising the aid to people in need’.

“By mixing military and humanitarian mandates, the PRTs must bear some of the responsibility for the 20 aid workers killed in Afghanistan so far this year, and a collapse of the vital civilian aid effort,” said Mr Locke.

“The Government should urgently review our involvement in the PRTs and consider providing aid to Afghanistan through UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations.”