Crossing The Red Line


Jason Lyall reads into the recent attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) headquarters in Afghanistan:

[I]n the words of Kate Clark, the attack has “crossed a red line” in the war, for the ICRC occupies a unique position as the most respected NGO in Afghanistan — including by the Taliban itself. Relying exclusively on its reputation for neutrality for protection, the ICRC monitors compliance by all sides with the laws of war; arranges for the return of war dead to their homes for burial; conducts site visits of prisons; and provides medical assistance to civilians and combatants regardless of their allegiance. Wednesday’s attack represents the first time that its offices have been targeted since the ICRC first arrived in Afghanistan in 1987. There’s little question that this attack was deliberate rather than accidental. …

[W]hile new facts will undoubtedly come to light, the 29 May attack against the ICRC may foreshadow the changing nature of war over the coming year in Afghanistan. If the ICRC attack is any guide, we are likely to witness a continued shift away from insurgent violence against dwindling foreign forces and toward a deliberate targeting of aid organizations and government ministries in high-profile attacks. These attacks, in conjunction with efforts to destroy or subvert Afghan security forces, will place international organizations and NGOs in an increasingly tight bind: continue programming and suffer losses, or head for the exit?

(Photo: An Afghan policeman stands guard beside the burnt out wreckage of vehicles of the International Red Cross after an attack in Jalalabad on May 30, 2013. Militants launched a two-hour suicide and gun attack on a Red Cross office in the city, killing one guard, officials said. The assault was the latest in a series of high profile, co-ordinated attacks as insurgents pile pressure on the US-backed government ahead of the withdrawal of 100,000 NATO combat troops by the end of next year. By Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images)