May 26th, 2010
11:18 AM ET

Security Brief: Red Cross defends helping Taliban treat casualties

The Red Cross provides aid in Afghanistan to security personnel, those injured during cross-fighting and even Taliban members.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is defending its practice of providing medical training and basic medical supplies to the Taliban in Afghanistan – saying it is in line with the ICRC’s mandate not to discriminate between different sides in a conflict.

In the latest situation report issued Tuesday the Red Cross disclosed that in April its workers “reached over 100 Afghan security personnel, over 70 members of the armed opposition, taxi drivers involved in the transport of wounded people, first-aiders and its own staff.”

That prompted plenty of quizzical and some critical comments in the international media and among bloggers – and some grumbling among Afghan officials. But an ICRC spokesman in Geneva said the practice is consistent with its obligation of neutrality and its mandate to provide assistance to all sides in conflict.The ICRC says it provides a three-day course that includes lessons in international humanitarian law, practical work with bandages and other basic medical techniques. It says the course is also a chance to remind all sides about respect for civilians and proper treatment of detainees.

Some critics have drawn a distinction between providing medical care to the wounded and training insurgents to do so. But the ICRC says it has provided similar training in Darfur, Sudan and to Hamas members in Gaza. ICRC spokesman Christian Cardon says it has been providing such training in Afghanistan for about four years to the Taliban as well as to Afghan police and civilian first-aiders. He added that the ICRC was not training the Taliban in surgical skills; the focus was on stabilizing those injured.

The ICRC says that roadblocks, fighting and mines have made access to hospitals very difficult – especially in provinces like Helmand and Kandahar in the south of Afghanistan.

It quotes one taxi-driver who regularly ferries people from one part of Helmand to hospital in Kandahar as saying that the insecurity “is endangering the lives of the sick and injured, because it often takes us six or seven hours to get people to hospital instead of two.”

The International Security Assistance Force says it has no issues with Red Cross workers training insurgents in medical care.

“We recognize the need for their work to be executed impartially – and it's precisely for this reason that they are able to gain the access that they do," Lt Col Joseph T Breasseale told CNN. "One of the litany of things that separates the international coalition from the Taliban is that we have frequently provided first aid to injured Taliban fighters and we will continue to do so.”

The ICRC says the three-day first-aid courses are a small part of its program in Afghanistan. In April it conducted a war surgery workshop for dozens of doctors, and supported the regional hospital in Kandahar in performing almost 1,000 operations. The ICRC says it has 1,500 national and 140 international staff in Afghanistan.

For more on news in Afghanistan, check out or Afghanistan Crossroads blog.

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Filed under: Health • Security Brief • Taliban
soundoff (930 Responses)
  1. Blue

    Mike you moron are you going to throw the 9/11 card everytime? Geoff is right and by the way if you havent kept track, Americans have killed 10 times as many ppl as 9/11 now, in the NAME OF 9/11 so go make up another excuse.

    June 3, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. DropZone

    From this day fourth, I shall never Donate anything to the Red Cross. Period! They take my hard earned money that I donate and provide it to the ones who are killing our boyz. I'm furious!

    June 3, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jay

    I'm sure there are now going to be fewer donations to the Red Cross. I understand they are to help those who need it but when these dudes heal they will be killing those who helped them. These people are heartless and only care about their beliefs. They have zero tolerance for anyone who do not believe the way they do and only look at them as if they were lower than dogs.

    June 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lyl3

    ya gotta ask why the Red Crescent isn't stepping up to the plate? why they don't want to help them? probably because the Taliban is an illegal band of criminals who are not fighting under the Flag of a Sovereign Nation. no more donations to Red Cross from me. this sounds like aiding and giving comfort to the enemy.

    June 6, 2010 at 4:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Steve, Dallas TX

    The CEO of the Red Cross makes almost $1 million dollars a year. That's the outrage! On the other side of the coin, if we do not support the Red Cross, they will be targets. Therefore, they will not be able to help our troops.

    June 6, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. AGuest9

    I'll NEVER send them another penny! I will find local relief authorities in affected areas like Nashville and New Orleans...

    June 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Damião Carlos

    June 6, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sceptic

    That's the American way of thinking: if you are not with us, you are against us. It is clairly impossible for the average US citizen to understand the word neutral... .

    I hope that the US doesn't have a major disaster that requires the Red Cross to assist!

    June 8, 2010 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. David

    I think this should be accepted by us here in America. The Red Cross's Mission is to provide aid to the injured and the poor, which many in the Taliban are. Maybe some constructive, instead of destructive, work in the Middle East will help convert some of the Taliban soldiers to our cause. War does not solve all problems, but helping quite often does.

    June 8, 2010 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ben Jordan

    Killing every enemy combatant is how you win a war, but allowing them to be healed and assisted by an impartial group, such as the Red Cross, is how you win the peace. Letting the Red Cross help people unimpeded is why we are the "good guys" and they are the bad. We have to continue to be the good guys.

    June 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Suad

    One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. That is why the red cross needs to remain impartial.

    June 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
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