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Red Cross Training Afghan Taliban

Samara Greenberg

The Red Cross in Afghanistan is teaching the Taliban basic first aid and giving insurgents medical equipment so that fighters wounded during battles with NATO and Afghan government forces can be treated in the field, the UK-based Guardian reported Tuesday. According to the article, more than 70 members of the “armed opposition” received training in April. The Red Cross, which aims to remain neutral, also trained Afghan soldiers, policemen, and taxi drivers who operate an unofficial ambulance service in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the publication reported.

Until recently, the Afghan government has generally allowed fighters to receive treatment in hospitals. But last month, the government’s approval for such humanitarian medical support appeared to break down when Afghan security services raided a hospital in Lashkar Gah run by the Italian NGO, Emergency. Nine staffers were arrested and accused of plotting to murder the provincial governor on orders from the Taliban after weapons and suicide bomb vests were found in the compound. The staff was also accused of unnecessarily amputating hands of Afghan National Army soldiers “to disable them”.

In a statement made earlier today, the Red Cross defended its first aid training for Taliban fighters. According to Marcal Izard, a Red Cross spokesman, the training is part of the neutral group’s humanitarian mandate under the Geneva Conventions that require all wounded on the battlefield to be treated equally.

However, as the Red Cross helps the Taliban heal its militants’ wounds, Afghanistan continues to lose large numbers of policemen and soldiers in insurgent attacks. As a leading figure in Kandahar’s local government, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “They [the Taliban] are like animals, and they treat the people they capture worse than animals. They kidnapped and killed an American lady and then wouldn’t even return her body. These people don’t deserve this help.”