In Defense of Military Aid Work

18.02.10

Categorie: Afghanistan, NGOs, Relief, Sam Abrams |
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by SAM ABRAMS

Using the military for humanitarian purposes raises all sorts of red flags across government and aid organizations. “The distribution of aid by the military gives a very difficult impression to the communities and puts the lives of humanitarian workers at risk,” said Robert Watkins, the deputy special representative of the U.N. secretary general.

“If that aid is being delivered as part of a military strategy, the counter-strategy is to destroy that aid,” added Wael Haj-Ibrahim, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Allowing the military to do it [distribute aid] is not the best use of resources.” Instead, he said, the military should confine itself to clearing an area of security threats and providing security for humanitarian organizations to deliver services.

But wasn’t it a U.N. residence that got attacked in October? The U.N. is already part of the war. It’s not as though the world body got sucked into the conflict only after the military drifted into aid work.

“Military-led humanitarian and development activities are driven by donors’ political interests and short-term security objectives and are often ineffective, wasteful and potentially harmful to Afghans,” according to Oxfam.

Sure, but lots of organizations can be “ineffective, wasteful and harmful to Afghans.”

Look, no one is advocating short-term anything, but development is qualitatively different than stabilization. Long-term development addresses infant mortality, poverty, etc. Stabilization is the strategic use of development-type projects to usurp Taliban control. Without stabilization, the Taliban wins. And that’s really bad for Afghans. How did development work go the last time the Taiban was in charge?

Recent criticism of “the international militaries’ use of aid as a ‘non-lethal’ weapon of war,” misses the point entirely. Aid — by which they mean all of that non-shooting stuff — is already central to the war. Why do you think that Taliban sets up shadow governments?

Military stabilization efforts can look a lot like aid groups’ development work. But that doesn’t mean stabilization isn’t valid.

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One Response to “In Defense of Military Aid Work”

  1. [...] In Defense of Military Aid Work Military stabilization efforts can look a lot like aid groups’ development work. But that doesn’t mean stabilization isn’t valid. [...]

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