x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Afghanistan security is deteriorating, Red Cross warns

Red Cross says security is falling as militants flood the battlefield and conduct attacks in what could be the most defining spring fighting season of Afghanistan's nearly 12-year-old war.

KABUL // The International Committee of the Red Cross warned today that security was deteriorating across Afghanistan as militants flood the battlefield and conduct attacks in what could be the most defining spring fighting season of the nearly 12-year-old war.

This year is crucial for Afghanistan as the US-led coalition is expected to hand over the lead for security in Afghanistan to the country's security forces sometime in the late spring. Foreign military forces are then expected to begin a massive withdrawal of forces that will culminate at the end of next year.

Gherardo Pontrandolfi, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul, also urged the warring parties to prevent the deaths of civilians, who have become increasingly caught in the crossfire.

"Spring is a good season of the year usually. But unfortunately it has a negative connotation with the resumption of the fighting," he said. "Spring and summer will be very difficult for civilians especially in the months ahead. The civilian population is bearing the brunt of this conflict."

So far, April has been the deadliest month of this year. According to an Associated Press tally, 186 people - including civilians, security forces and foreign troops - have been killed in violence around the nation. More than 150 insurgents have also died.

The latest deaths came in southern Helmand province when insurgents shot and killed four labourers building a checkpoint for the Afghan army, said provincial spokesman Umar Zawaq. The Taliban have pledged to target anyone working for the government or the US-led coalition.

Mr Pontrandolfi said the Afghan Red Crescent had temporarily stopped humanitarian operations in northern Jawzjan province after unknown gunmen ambushed a medical van on Wednesday and killed two staff members of the local organisation. Two other Red Crescent staff members were wounded in the attack.