Afghan Taliban revoke months-long ban on Red Cross

Militants banned ICRC and WHO in April from relief activities in areas under their control

FILE - In this May 28, 2019 file photo, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, second left, arrives with other members of the Taliban delegation for talks in Moscow, Russia. Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders agreed they wanted a deal with the United States, but some among them were in more of a hurry than others. Even before U.S. President Donald Trump cancelled a mysterious Camp David summit on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, the Taliban negotiators were at odds with the council of leaders, or shura, that rules the Islamic movement. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
Powered by automated translation

The Afghan Taliban in on Sunday lifted their ban on the International Committee of the Red Cross, which they imposed in April this year.

The Red Cross, which has been operating in the war-torn country since 1987, was forced to suspend much of its work after the Taliban banned it and the World Health Organisation for “suspicious activities” and breaching agreements.

After months of negotiations, the Taliban said they were restoring “the former security guarantees to the ICRC in Afghanistan and instructs all mujahideen to pave the way for ICRC activities and be mindful of security to this committee’s workers and equipment”.

There was no mention of the ban on the WHO.

Red Cross spokesman Robin Waudo told The National that the organisation was looking forward to resuming work in the country.

“We welcome this announcement by the Taliban,” Mr Waudo said.

“There are major humanitarian needs in the country and we were not able to do as much we could because of the ban on our activities.

“Afghanistan has been in conflict for a long time, and there are a lot of people who needed our assistance and we couldn’t provide it.

“We had to limit our work in rural areas and regions that are hard to reach, where we provide aid and treatment amid conflict."

He said that the Red Cross also worked with people in detention centres, including Taliban fighters, monitoring their conditions and treatment.

“We reach out to their families and make phone calls, and we couldn’t do that either but now we will be able to slowly restart it all,” Mr Waudo said.

He said the Red Cross hoped to continue communicating with the Taliban “to ensure that aid reaches the remote areas that are under conflict”.

This was not the first time the militant group banned the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations.

In August last year, they imposed a similar ban on the ICRC after “concerns about its operating methods”, before lifting it in October.

But while the Taliban may have revoked a ban on some organisations, they continue to attack humanitarian and aid workers around the country.

The group kidnapped and killed Abdul Samad Amiri, a charity worker from Ghor province, on September 5.

Mr Amiri was the acting head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission and his brutal death was called a war crime by Amnesty International.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in any promises they make,” said Kara Lozier, founder of Resources of Young Afghans, an organisation with which Mr Amiri worked.

“I don’t believe it is one cohesive party. If the leaders lift the ban and guarantee security for humanitarian workers, there is no comfort in believing that it will be honoured by all Taliban or other terrorists in the country."

Mr Amiri’s killing deeply affected morale among other workers and volunteers, Ms Lozier said.

“Just today, Samad’s brother-in-law, who is the founder of our partner school in Ghor, sent me a message of how this incident changed his belief," she said.

“He said: ‘I always tried to work for tomorrow but now I realise there is no tomorrow for this country to work for.’”

There has been an increase in violence before the presidential election this month and a Taliban vow to keep up attacks after US President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled peace talks with the group over its killing of an American soldier in Kabul.