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Afghan conflict troubles ICRC

Jan. 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Rural communities in Afghanistan haven't seen many of the gains made during 10 years of international military engagement, the Red Cross said.

U.S.-led forces in 2001 invaded Afghanistan, removing the Taliban movement from power. More than 10 years later, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was willing to reach out to Taliban moderates in the interest of national reconciliation.

Karzai said his security forces could stand up as international forces in the country look to leave the country within two years. The International Committee of the Red Cross said the international engagement has opened Afghanistan to global markets and improved much of the country's infrastructure.

The ICRC, however, said rural communities in the country are prone to conflict driven by pro- and anti-government groups.

Reto Stocker, the head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, said people living in rural communities have trouble getting access to basic medical needs because of lingering conflict.

"A slow-onset drought is making life precarious for people in dozens of districts in the north and west of Afghanistan," he added. "Simple poverty is as much a factor as anything else contributing to people's sense of vulnerability."

Despite reaching out to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, the ICRC said "access to the field became increasingly difficult owing to poor security."

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