Since February seven workers for the humanitarian group have been killed in escalating violence. The charity says it has no choice but to scale backs its programs in the country’s north.
The Red Cross will dramatically scale back its operations in Afghanistan amid security concerns, it announced on Monday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross will close two offices in northern Faryab and Kunduz provinces and reduce activities in northern Balkh province after several deadly attacks on its workers, it said.
Since December, six local employees and one foreign worker have been killed in attacks in the country’s north, where Taliban and “Islamic State” militants have intensified their assaults on police and troops. Three other workers were abducted and later released.
“We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence and activities in Afghanistan,” Monica Zanarelli, the ICRC head in Afghanistan, told reporters.
“Exposure to risk has become our greater challenge in Afghanistan, and we know that zero risk doesn’t exist and we are not aiming at that, but our security has to be guaranteed by every party,” she said.
Three decades of work
The humanitarian group has been working in Afghanistan for more than three decades, employing 1,800 staff including 120 international aid workers. The charity helps wounded and disabled people, supports hospitals, visits prisons and helps prisoners maintain contact with their families.
In the country’s tumultuous north they were often the only organization providing such services.
“We understand the consequences of stopping our activities in the north, but we have no choice,” Zanarelli added.
Nine other ICRC offices in Afghanistan will remain open.
The US military estimates the Afghan government controls no more than 60 percent of the country, with the balance in the control of the Taliban and other insurgent groups.