Taliban revokes months-long ban on Red Cross in Afghanistan

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will again be able to operate in the part of Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban, the militant group announced as it offered safety guarantees to the relief body.

The ICRC and the World Health Organization (WHO) were expelled from Taliban-held areas in mid-April after being accused of failing to remain neutral in the Afghan armed conflict. On Sunday, a spokesman for the Taliban announced that the ban has been revoked for the ICRC after negotiations in Qatar.

The militant group “restores the former security guarantees to ICRC in Afghanistan and instructs all mujahideen to pave the way for ICRC activities and be mindful of security to this committee’s workers and equipment,” Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, which didn’t mention the WHO.

The Taliban mentioned new promises of humanitarian aid on top of old agreements with the ICRC as an incentive for lifting the ban.

Schaerer Juan-Pedro, who heads the ICRC’s branch in Afghanistan, said he welcomed the development that will allow the humanitarian agency to continue its work.

The ICRC strives to remain strictly neutral in any conflict, where its medics and aid workers offer humanitarian assistance. This policy allows it to mediate retrieval of bodies of people killed on the battlefield or monitor treatment of prisoners.

The Taliban is fighting an 18-year-long guerrilla war against the US-led foreign military forces and the Kabul government they are propping up. It currently controls over half of all Afghan districts, most of them in rural parts of the country, regularly launching raids and suicide bombing attacks against their opponents.