Peacekeeping: NGOs as Targets


October 19, 2005: On October 12th eight NGO employees working for the Afghan Ministry of Health were killed in two deliberate attacks by Taliban gunmen. These were the first deaths among NGO personnel since last May, and suggest a shift in policy for the Taliban. Targeting NGOs would have several benefits to the Islamist rebels. Attacking the aid workers is a lot safer than attacking Coalition or Afghan military and security personnel. In addition, targeting NGO personnel might lead to the diversion of security forces to provide protection, thereby reducing troops and police available to cope with the Taliban in the field. The ultimate goal may be to chase the NGOs out, which would reduce the level of humanitarian assistance available to the Afghan people, which might increase dissatisfaction with the government and provide an opening for Islamic "charities" to step in.

This tactic is not found more frequently because the local rebels often reach an informal arrangement with NGOs, getting a share of the NGO relief aid, in return for "protection." Sure, it's extortion, and the NGOs that tolerate it justify it in terms of the good that can be done to the many people who are not associated with the bad guys. In Afghanistan, the money generated by the drug trade is replacing NGO aid for many tribes. So the Taliban, who tend to be based on a few Pushtun tribes in the south, get themselves some good cash flow from the heroin trade, and then go after the NGOs who are helping other tribes (which the pro-Taliban tribe may have an ancient grudge against as well.)




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