International Red Cross Defends Giving First Aid Courses to Taliban

May 26, 2010 - 10:55 AM
The courses started in 2006 and the neutral group said they will continue as long as they are needed. 'It's the core of the ICRC's mandate to make sure that people are cured whether they are from one side or the other side,' a spokesman told The Associated Press.
Geneva (AP) - The international Red Cross said Wednesday it would continue giving first aid training and kits to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, despite a media report on the practice that has drawn angry e-mails from around the world and criticism from an Afghan official.
 
The International Committee of the Red Cross trained "over 70 members of the armed opposition" in first aid last month, along with more than 100 Afghan police and civilians, including taxi drivers.
 
The courses started in 2006 and the neutral group will continue as long as they are needed, said Red Cross spokesman Christian Cardon.
 
"It's the core of the ICRC's mandate to make sure that people are cured whether they are from one side or the other side," he told The Associated Press.
 
Journey to Afghanistan's few functioning hospitals often are arduous or near impossible, meaning even basic first aid can help save lives, said Cardon. He added that the three-day courses also were an opportunity to show participants the need to abide by the Geneva Conventions that govern the conduct of war.
 
Britain's Guardian newspaper on Tuesday quoted an unidentified official in Kandahar's local government as criticizing the first aid training, saying the Taliban did "not deserve to be treated like humans."
 
Cardon said the Red Cross also received angry e-mails from people around the world in response to the article. But he insisted that in Afghanistan most officials well understand and accept the group's 151-year history of treating all war wounded regardless of their background or affiliation.
 
Cardon cited as another example the Red Cross orthopedic hospital in Kabul where amputees are fitted with artificial limbs.
 
"We never ask the people who come about their background," he said. "This is the way we work everywhere in Afghanistan and all over the world."
 
Identical first aid courses have been held in Gaza with members of Hamas and other Palestinian groups, said Cardon.
 
Nevertheless, "if we get complaints from local authorities we will go and meet them to clarify that it's the way we have always worked and always will work," he said. "We are quite confident that it (the report) will not affect our operations."