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The Taliban is rescinding its nearly 6-month ban that prevented Red Cross staff from working in Afghanistan, saying it will also renew security guarantees for the aid workers.
The new arrangement was worked out during talks in Doha, according to representatives from both the Taliban and the Red Cross.
“In a message sent via social media, a Taliban spokesman said they had all instructed all their fighters to ‘pave the way’ for the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume work,” NPR’s Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.
“The organization is one of the largest working in Afghanistan today – they’ve faced deadly attacks in the past — including in 2017, when eight Red Cross workers were killed.”
The Red Cross has been active in Afghanistan for decades, and it endured criticism in 2010 for teaching Taliban fighters the basics of first aid and giving them medical kits. But the international aid group scaled back its activities in northern Afghanistan after that 2017 attack, which targeted an orthopedic center.
In April, the Taliban issued threats to both the Red Cross and the World Health Organization, saying their staff would be targeted if they kept working in Afghanistan. Those threats came during vaccination campaigns.
Schaerer Juan-Pedro, who leads International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan, says the two sides reestablished a “common understanding” about the Red Cross’s work in Afghanistan.
“We welcome the acknowledgment of our humanitarian principles and renewal of security guarantees,” Juan-Pedro said via Twitter.
The Taliban has not lifted its ban on the WHO, whose work in Afghanistan includes a range of medical care along with vaccinations and polio eradication.
Shortly before the ban was announced in April, the WHO said it was hoping to protect more than 9.3 million children under the age of 5 from polio. At the time, three polio cases had been reported in Afghanistan.