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Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies

            On 29th May 2013, three gunmen and a suicide bomber attacked the ICRC office at Jalalabad in Afghanistan killing an Afghan guard on duty. Two days after the attack on the world's most respected humanitarian organisation's office, Taliban denied any role in the attack. Taliban spokesperson said that the group never targets those who truly serve the people (Reuters, The Express Tribune, May 31, 2013). This attack sent shockwaves across the humanitarian community, not because that ICRC was never attacked anywhere in the world but because the attack was the first of its kind on ICRC since it started working in Afghanistan in 1987. .
             The attack on the ICRC office in Jalalabad was not a stand alone incident in the region, many humanitarian organisation personals were attacked and their assets were destroyed since the US led Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The attacks have to be seen in the larger context of issues around neutrality and blurring of lines between military and humanitarian actors on ground. Normally the groups like Taliban happily own the responsibility of any attack which has been carried out by it as a shot in the arm. The denial in the ICRC office attack points towards two things- either they didn't attack or they feared that owning up of responsibility of the attacks on world's most respected humanitarian organisation will do more harm than good. The crucial point of analysis here is not whether Taliban was responsible or not; but the larger humanitarian scenario of interaction between military and international/local non governmental organisation (I/NGOs) in Afghanistan. This point of analysis is not only relevant for Afghanistan but for all the humanitarian operations around the world. Afghanistan's situation is of a complex emergency one. World Health Organisation (WHO) defines complex emergencies as situation of disputed livelihood and threats to life produced by warfare, civil strife disturbances and large scale movement of people, in which any emergency response has to be conducted in a difficult political and security environment (WHO, 2002).

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