Even though the number of landmine victims in Afghanistan has fallen by 60% in the last few years, there is still danger to life and limb lurking everywhere – in the soil, in the fields, on the way to school or the next village. Even so, the Afghan medico partners Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR) and Mine Detection and Dog Center (MDC), each with over 1,000 employees selected from different ethnic groups, are not limiting themselves to landmine clearing. With medico’s help, OMAR is running mobile schools offering education on landmines for girls. MDC operates a polyclinic in Kabul which treats up to 150 patients a day free of charge, six days a week.
Their work is happening in the framework of a conflict whose resolution was complicated rather than simplified by NATO intervention. With the announced withdrawal of international troops, there is now the threat of a return by the Taliban and consolidation of power by various warlords. During the year under review, medico together with other NGOs met with politicians and representatives of the German Federal Army to press for a different policy on Afghanistan which starts from the needs of the Afghan population, rather than being a mask for the geostrategic interests of the major powers. At the time we wrote that the failure in Afghanistan could at least serve as a basis for learning from the lessons there. Admittedly, this would require a ‘culture of defeat’, and ultimately giving up our misplaced notion that we can resolve all conflicts everywhere by military means. Without democratically legitimated international institutions able to decide upon military action to protect universal human rights, and without equitable global relationships, the idea of international ‘responsibility to protect’ is merely a screen for securing a western hegemony.