|Civil Affairs Teams Re-establish Afghan Relief |
Civil Affairs Teams Re-establish Afghan Relief
By Sgt. William Patterson, Army News Service (*).
Mazar E Sharif, Afghanistan -- (ANS) December 21, 2001 -- U.S. Army civil affairs teams working hand in hand with international and non-governmental organizations have been striving to increase humanitarian assistance lines to the war-torn country of Afghanistan.
"Many of the humanitarian agencies didn't leave, they just layed low, doing what they could, when they could" said the officer in charge of the Coalition Humanitarian Liaison Center. "Our main focus was to help the executives of the aid agencies realize it is safe to come back."
Their first few days in Mazar E Sharif, a civil affairs team of two grabbed an old map of the non-governmental and international aid agencies that used to be in the area and went looking to see if anyone was still in town. After many wrong turns and wrong locations and the help of an interpreter, they established a connection with the lowest level of humanitarian aid, according to the team OIC.
"We knocked on several wrong doors and traveled all over town, but by the fourth day we had mapped out who was here and where they were," the OIC said.
The team found that the people who actually handed the food out and or provided direct care were still in town, but the higher levels of the NGOs were no longer around.
"We began exchanging information with the implementers in hopes they would pass it up to their higher," the team chief said. "In turn, they would tell us of any problems they may be having."
One problem brought to the team's attention was that many of the internally displaced people of the refugee camps were carrying arms and the care givers were afraid for their lives and their cause.
"When they told us of the weapons, we then told the Special Forces guys, who in turn told the host nation forces, who made the weapons disappear," the team chief said. "This helped build the growing trust between us and led them to invite the next level of management down to check things out."
M.S. Durani of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees arrived shortly after and contacted the two-man team to see things for himself.
"He asked for daily situational reports to pass on to his higher about the climate here in Mazar E Sharif," the team chief said. After working with the CA team for about a week Durani felt confident enough to send for his higher, Pongo Maschimango, the regional director of security for the International Committee of the Red Cross. After his own assessment, Maschimango brought his boss down, Simon Brooks, head of the ICRC Sub Delegation in Mazar E Sharif.
"We have fed 7,000 families in the past four weeks," Brooks said. "The civil affairs teams have really helped us to bring supplies in."
The ICRC took a large step Dec. 10 when it landed an aircraft carrying needed personnel and medical supplies on the Mazar E Sharif civilian airfield for the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Brooks.
"The personnel and supplies that arrived were from Pakistan," Brooks said. "Flying is the quickest way to bring in aid until the United Nations begins trucking supplies in across the (Freedom Bridge)."
Due to the efforts of U.S. Army explosive ordnance disposal teams, Air Force engineers, and local contractors, the cratered airfield is once again operational.
Civil Affairs teams have been meeting with Maschimango and Brooks, to discuss how aid is to be brought in and distributed to the right people and places within Mazar E Sharif and northern Afghanistan.
The NGOs are bringing in about five times the amount of aid now than they did before the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the civil affairs team noncommissioned officer in charge.
The civil affairs teams work daily to assist relief agencies on the ground, the NCO said, doing whatever they can to help the people of Afghanistan.
(*) Editor's note: Sgt. William Patterson is a member of the 49th Public Affairs Detachment (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, N.C. He is reporting from inside Afghanistan.