ICRC counts on dialogue with Taliban in Afghanistan

The ICRC aims to continue its work in Afghanistan, particularly in the health sector. Many people have been injured and traumatized during the war. Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is counting on talks with the Taliban to be able to continue its work in Afghanistan, says ICRC President Peter Maurer.

This content was published on September 10, 2021 - 11:05

“I trust that we can at least negotiate a humanitarian space with the Taliban that allows us to better serve the population, but I do not rule out that we will have difficulties,” Maurer told Swiss public broadcaster SRFExternal link on Thursday after returning from three days in Afghanistan. “There are different currents within the Taliban, and there are even more radical groups outside the Taliban.”

The ICRC has the advantage that it has already talked to the Taliban before, said Maurer. “We have through our mandate visited in prison virtually all the Taliban leadership, who spent years in jail in Guantanamo or Bagram,” he told SRF. “I think that has also shown this Taliban leadership that the ICRC is a credible actor on the ground, that we can be talked to. But I don't want to play down the problems we still face.”

He said the ICRC would try to continue its programmes, especially in the health sector, where it is active in over 80 hospitals. He stressed that the needs were great in a poor country where “the misery of poverty comes together with the effects of war”.

“I was amazed at how normal life goes on,” Maurer told SRF, citing shops and markets open in Kabul and provincial towns he visited. But the ICRC President also pointed to long queues outside closed banks and people suffering from the trauma of war. “There is not a single local ICRC staff member in Afghanistan who has not lost someone in this war, who has not had someone wounded or severely damaged physically or psychologically.” 

UN Secretary-General calls for dialogue

This comes as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday urged the international community to engage in dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan, warning that an "economic collapse" with possibly millions dying must be avoided.

"We must maintain a dialogue with the Taliban, where we affirm our principles directly - a dialogue with a feeling of solidarity with the Afghan people," he said in an interview with French news agency AFP. "Our duty is to extend our solidarity to a people who suffer greatly, where millions and millions risk dying of hunger."

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