Engaging the military in development and reconstruction in Afghanistan is endangering aid workers and civilian recipients by politicizing the delivery of aid, says Mennonite Central Committee. In 2008, 38 aid workers in Afghanistan were killed by insurgents and 147 were abducted.
“While we admire the concern the Canadian Forces has for development, evidence shows that humanitarian aid and long-term development is most effectively and efficiently performed by non-governmental organizations and government development agencies, not military personnel,” writes MCC Canada executive director Don Peters in a recent letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The militarization of aid is one of several concerns in the letter that arises from the counsel of MCC’s partners in Afghanistan. In April, MCC representatives met with local Afghan partner organizations to hear their perspective on the impact of international groups on their country.
MCC’s Afghan partners estimate that up to 90 percent of people join the Taliban for economic reasons. Afghans are hungry, impoverished, and without work, and the Taliban provides them with an income.
To counter this, MCC suggests that Canada invest more in projects that directly improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. Peters points to a new Canadian law stipulating that Canada’s official development assistance should first and foremost go directly toward alleviating poverty.
Violence begets violence and international military operations, even with the best of intentions, contribute to new grievances that fuel the cycles of aggression, writes Peters. The letter stops short of calling for a withdrawal of Canadian troops, as MCC’s partners have counselled against it at this time, but it urges Canada to more actively promote a comprehensive peace process that will engage Afghans from all sectors of society.
MCC Canada’s letter can be found at mcc.org/canada/ottawa.