October 9, 2012 in Nation/World

Red Cross official grim on Afghanistan’s future

Los Angeles Times
Associated Press photo

From left, Sanjeeda, 8; Nagina, 7; and Parwana, 8, pose during their working hours at a brick factory in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on Monday. Thousands of Afghan children work to support their families.
(Full-size photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan – The departing head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan warned Monday that the country’s civilians live in more peril today than when he started his job seven years earlier.

“Since I arrived here in 2005, local armed groups have proliferated, civilians have been caught between not just one but multiple front lines, and it has become increasingly difficult for ordinary Afghans to obtain health care,” Reto Stocker said in a prepared statement. “Hardship arising from the economic situation, or from severe weather or natural disaster, has become more widespread, and hope for the future has been steadily declining.”

Stocker painted an alarming portrait of Afghanistan’s future, in sharp contrast to the usually more upbeat pronouncements of U.S. officials that the country is edging toward stability after the massive troop surge early in the Obama administration.

Stocker noted the Red Cross had made progress in making sides aware of civilians’ rights after decades of strife in Afghanistan. He highlighted the receptivity by the Afghan government to addressing poor conditions in detention centers, but he worried this would prove fleeting with the departure of international forces in 2014.

The blunt remarks by the Red Cross chief came the same day a new report from the International Crisis Group think tank was released, warning that Afghanistan’s current political order could unravel after 2014 if scheduled presidential elections are perceived as unfair.

The report, titled “Afghanistan: the Long, Hard Road to the 2014 transition,” said the elections were on a course to be plagued by massive fraud.

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