Sunday, June 7, 2009

NATO posing as civilians say aid groups

Once again, NATO and US forces are accused of violating the law. And once again, the fact is exposed by journalists from whom you would not expect hard-hitting stories. In this case, it is the UN humanitarian news agency, IRIN:

Aid agencies win NATO concession on vehicle markings

KABUL, June 1 (IRIN) - International forces under NATO command in Afghanistan will stop using white vehicles from 1 June in response to calls from NGOs for clearer markings to distinguish between civilian and military vehicles...

Agreement on this was reached after months of strong lobbying by mostly international aid agencies which have accused NATO/ISAF of deliberately using white vehicles to get greater protection...

NGOs say white four-wheel-drive vehicles have traditionally been used by the UN and aid agencies in conflict zones to distinguish themselves from the military...

“When the military use white vehicles this undermines aid workers’ identity and can make it easier for us to be confused with the military, which can worsen our security and our access to the communities who need our vital services,” Ingrid Macdonald, protection and advocacy manager of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), told IRIN in Kabul.

Armed attacks on NGOs increased by about 40 percent in 2008 and dozens of aid workers were killed, kidnapped and wounded across Afghanistan, according to NRC and Oxfam...

NATO’s new policy regarding the use of white vehicles will not apply to thousands of US troops operating beyond the writ of NATO/ISAF and engaged mainly in counter-insurgency and “anti-terrorism” military activities...

NGOs say the use of white vehicles by military forces and for military purposes would be a violation of the modus operandi agreed between aid agencies and the military in August 2008.

Under international humanitarian law, combatants are required to distinguish themselves from civilians in conflict,” said Oxfam’s Jackson. (link)
It is useful to recall that the media regularly wholesales accusations by US/NATO forces that Taliban fighters hide among civilians, even though western military acknowledge officials their own use of media manipulation (PSYOPS). Here we have a case where aid agencies, which have some credibility, are accusing NATO of deliberately posing as civilians yet there will, I predict, be no notice paid to the issue.

Meanwhile, the march to integrate aid and military operations continues at Canadian headquarters. We have seen recently that about half of Kandaharis want aid agencies out of their country, doubtless due in no small part to the ambiguity of such operations since they've been added to the armory of our military.
New Drones Allowing Canadian Aid Officials to Check Up On Contractors
The Globe and Mail

KANDAHAR, May 26 - Canada's unmanned military aircraft are helping keep tabs on school-building projects...

The fact that unmanned aerial vehicles are being used in such a way indicates how much control the insurgents are exerting.

Military convoys are often asked to keep away from some school projects for fear they'll draw unwanted attention and, possibly, attacks... (link)

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