Humanitarian Law and Violence in Afghanistan

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Humanitarian Law and Violence in Afghanistan


In most cases, the humanitarian actors in the world go unnoticed when it comes to containing violence. More so, the law that go with humanitarian actions has played a very critical role in making all people respect the law, and in countries that are prone to violence; for example, Afghanistan and Sudan, such kinds of law make sure that everybody toes to what the law prescribe. Burke (2007, p.157) writes that the kind of violence that is noted in countries such as Afghanistan are humanitarian crisis, and therefore, the only way to go about curbing such is by use of the humanitarian laws. The humanitarian laws as discussed in this paper are the ones, which prevent senior people from conducting massive torture on people and generally preventing a humanitarian catastrophe. A lot of instability and suffering characterizes the war theory, and therefore, it is appropriate to use the humanitarian laws to combat such kind of things.

The International Humanitarian law is a kind of law developed to curb major catastrophes that occur in nations especially when there are armed conflicts in the countries. This law applies to the states that rise against the others or some group which cause deaths and mayhem in a country. The paper has concentrated on the humanitarian crisis that has characterized the Afghan nation a crisis that has its root in the year 1979. Since then, the country has been stable but the United States intervened by the application of this law in the year 2001, and even though the real aim was to root out the Taliban group, the process also enhanced stabilization of the nation; thanks to the law.

Background of the study

Whenever there are wars in the world, or in any country in the world, the biggest effect is the devastating impacts that are caused on the humans making the situation have the humanitarian crisis elements. It is therefore proper to study some of the effective or ineffective measures that have been carried by major international players to quell down the situation. In this therefore, major international players like the United Nations and American agencies ought to move with speed to pour water on such crisis and alleviate the humanitarian problem. The focus of the problem is the Afghan humanitarian crisis ranging from destructions from major wars and food situations.

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is/was both borne from the outside as well as from inside with major international players such as the United States attacking the nation on the ground that the country is harboring terrorists, and the Taliban group restricting intervention but, the U.S and other military forces have become effecting in quelling down a major humanitarian crisis that could have resulted were it not for this intervention, and therefore, the intervention has been effective.

Research Question

How effective has, humanitarian law been at constraining the impact of violence in Afghanistan.

Research methodology

This research aims at finding out whether the laws that have been used to ease the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan have been of help or in large they have been used to extend the crisis. In this study, qualitative research tools would be used to find out whether some of the applications of the law have been of good or they have just led to escalation of more of these humanitarian crisis. Generally, the focus target groups like American Military and the policies of the government of United States of America would be analyzed to evaluate whether in general, they have been used to undermine the effects or the military has been of huge positive impact in cooling off the situation.

As well, other international aid agencies and mostly the affiliates of United Nations would be analyzed to see whether they have been used to solve the seemingly perennial situation or generally, they too have been machineries being used by the mighty to undermine humanitarian efforts. Qualitative analysis would be done especially in the evaluation of major crisis; for example, the after effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on US twin towers and the Soviet Afghan war which left many dead and displaced externally and internally.

Literature Review

Humanitarian laws

Humanitarian laws as placed in the international arena can be defined as a body of law, which aims at solving the humanitarian reasons, and essentially limits the effects that are brought by armed conflict. This law is good as it protects the persons who are viewed as not participating in the hostile means and essentially restricts the means and the methods that instigate warfare. According to Provost (2002, p.26), the context of the humanitarian law is the law that curbs war as well as the law of the armed conflict. Some of the states in the world are best known to be characterized by recurrent war and some of these are like Afghanistan, Sudan, and Somalia among others. This body of law therefore makes it possible for innocent people be protected and establish normality. People in some countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan are prone to finding themselves in anarchy and when this is the case, it is appropriate to have some laws protecting the persons.

Arnold (2008, p.478) writes that it has been argued that the humanitarian law is most applicable when it is put in the context of preventing terrorism in the world. However, some of the countries such as Sudan and Somalia do not extend ideologies of terrorism but their countries are in constant anarchy. Therefore, it is not right to argue that it can only apply when it is put in the category of terrorism. As noted earlier, the biggest aim of the humanitarian law is to limit the adverse effects that come with warfare, and this is with the notion that if there is warfare in a certain country, people who would be affected. Brav (2007, p.322) puts the argument that if any person is seen to act against the law or generally violates the law, the person is liable to international prosecution. Some of these offenses are punishable by maximum penalties; death. The definition of humanitarian law has been covered extensively by the Third Geneva Convention of the 1949 and as would be seen in the next argument, this has helped in regulating treatments of people who are engaged in wars (Brav 2007, p.322).

As noted above, major treaties and conventions have extended the provisions of this law. For instance, there is the Charter of the United Nations of the year 1945 stipulated that it is unlawful to extend the threat or even the use of force against some states and therefore, if noted to extend this, the enforcers are liable to face some serious consequences. All nations are warned that even exposing citizens to real threats of war or armed conflict is punishable and the people in high offices who are directly responsible for the groups extending these are liable for this. However, Cullen (2010, p.27) gives in his writing that it is not everything that can constitute criminal law as covered under the provisions of the humanitarian law. For example, if it is not armed conflict, this law may not apply and actually, the armed conflict many not be of the category of an international character. In such a case, the law may not be applied and it is only when there is real case and when mischief is removed from reading this (Fischer 2005, p.53).

The Geneva Convention and humanitarian law

It is the Geneva Convention that established the humanitarian law, and it was then been taken up by major international organizations such as the United Nations with a sole aim of protecting vulnerable people from armed conflict. Writing about this, May (2007, p.68) notes that the principles of the humane treatments are well contained in the Geneva Conventions, and there exist a number of the definitions of what is contained in these provisions. One of the things that are contained in the provision is the definition and the types of armed conflict. From the fourth Geneva Convention, the international armed conflicts can be defined as the conflicts that are involving states. There is also the non-international armed conflict and these are little bit simpler than the international ones. However, as noted by Ipsen (2007, p.225) every other state as far as it is under the United Nations is covered by the provisions of the Geneva Conventions of the year 1949. This is especially when this is based on the violation of the humanitarian law and more so, when it comes to extending violation between states and to some extent inside. This law would be based on the argument of its effectiveness in a country such as Afghanistan.

Humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the countries in the world that has experienced a lot of turmoil. The genesis of the humanitarian crisis in this country was in the year 1979, and this is when there was an invasion from the Soviet Union. However, the rise of Mujahedeen opposition is attributed to have contributed a lot to this turmoil especially in the swelling of the ranks of the refuges and the persons who were internally displaced (Clements 2003, p.115). More so, afterwards, there was little concern from the international community and with this lack of interest, the country was prone to go under in terms of violation of human rights leading to a major humanitarian crisis. This kind of ignorance has made this problem to escalate to the levels that now cannot be controlled. However, some of the latest efforts by the international players have borne some fruits. These efforts have come from major quarters, and these include the aid agencies and the U.S military which significantly have reduced the then looming humanitarian catastrophe.

There are news stories that as well have contributed to the quelling of the situation, especially the ones that concentrate on giving a true reflection and do an analysis of the exact situation in the country. For example, in the year 2001, some of the stories that were carried in the media carried some alarming stories such as the need for outside aid to cater for more than 7.5 million. Others as recorded by the United Nations noted that there was need for more than $250 million to cater for the looming crisis in the year 2001 and that was the crisis resulting from the humane violations. This spells that it was only after the problem became of magnitude that the international community saw the need of intervening when in the early years of the crisis, there was little or no interest towards this.

Even though, the crisis did not only include violations of humanitarian needs of the people such as causing deaths to the people. Some other humanitarian crisis in this country has been caused by external invasion. For instance, in the year 2001, massive violence was caused on the persons and this constituted a major humanitarian crisis (Sabahuddin 2008, p.141). Specifically, this was by the invasions of the U.S forces in the efforts to find the culprits of the 9/11 terrorist attack on U.S twin towers. It therefore spells that most of the violence that is instigated in such a country come from the outside, and notably, little is done to solve such kind of problems. The United States has never had a scathing attack from purported activists of human rights and even a large organization such as the United Nations. The arguments, which have been put here, is that the United States of America is a major funder of the group and therefore, there is no way that the country could be criticized. However, as discussed in this paper, the U.S later used the military forces to solve the crisis and was effective.

This violence particularly caused many human and property damages, and as well, there was a high need of aid such as food. The United Nations according to Sabahuddin (2008, p.141) noted that, there were close to 3 million people from a country who were in need of help. Millions of them were refugees and that included the invasion on the Afghan hospital where there was a real human violation catastrophe. The fact that the United Nation did little to prevent the violence from the outside forces made the Taliban, other opposition forces seal off the UN offices in the country, and this made it worse because there was disruption of the efforts. It can therefore be said that the problem in this country was emanating from the outside as well from the inside where, the invasion by the U.S forces represented the outside problem while the restrictions by the Taliban group represented the inside problem.

The Soviet War in Afghanistan

The conflict was involving the Soviet Union, which was supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Afghanistan nation. This collaboration was against what was perceived as the Afghan Mujahedeen as well as the Arab-Afghan volunteers and the Mujahedeen found some other support from some other sources, which included Saudi Arabia, United States of America, Pakistan, United Kingdom, China, and Egypt among other nations. In addition, this meant that this was a war between some of the super powers of the likes of United States of America and Soviet Union. This war was a proxy war and more so connected to the crisis after the cold war, which seemingly hand taken a similar twist. The war started with the Soviet deployment in the country of 40th army in the country on 24th December 1979 and this was under the Soviet leadership of Leonid Brezhnev. In this war, an estimated range of 1 to 2 million people was killed while almost 10 million persons in this country had to free from the country to the neighboring countries and more so Pakistan and Iran. Another 2 million of the Afghanistan people were displaced in the country and in the 1980s, half of the refugees in the whole world were counted to be from this country.

The Intervention by use of Humanitarian Law and its Effectiveness

The problems that were noted in Afghanistan in the year 2001 and after was a caused by the military operations, and therefore, the problem could only have been prevented or solved by use of the military intervention. This intervention was done by major military forces from the United States and other concerned states plus the forces from the United Nations. In other cases, it is the customary humanitarian law that operated to bring down the then looming catastrophe plus the International Security Assistance Forces that combined their efforts to make sure that the situation became controlled and there was the return of normalcy (Hensel 2008, p.125). The Taliban was to become a common enemy, and it was only appropriate that this group be defeated by use of the military means to make sure that normalcy returned and have a country that operates within the international law.

Some writings have noted the so called intervention by the forces of the United States was actually not intervention, and the aim was to purport to fight the ‘war on terror’ (Ayub, July 2008, p.641-657). Some of the people have argued that intervention has not been the aim of the United States but rather advance their interest on protection of her border. However, this may not be true because for the whole, normalcy returned after the intervention and even if the United States was for rooting out the possible terrorist, it in the end helped the country. Taliban has been a major threat to stability in this nation, and therefore, the intervention of the United States helped in giving hope to the people here and to some extent, the people now enjoy unlimited freedom. Even though, the agenda to have a stable country was blurred by major property and human destruction, and that is why people argued that the violence was uncalled. Years later, the country that was riddled by instability returned to normalcy and now the country enjoys stability.

Overall, it can be argued that it is the international humanitarian law that helped in quelling the problem; where, the custodian of the law; the United States gave a go ahead for major military operations in the country and this gave rise to rooting out of causes of instability; the Taliban group. Arguing about this, Bellamy (July 2006, p.143-169) is of the view that the application of this law was effective because at long last, the major violence and humanitarian crisis in this country was put off and what we have now is a kind of stability and legitimate government. The U.S forces helped in putting new governance that is supported by all people on which does not operate with the threats of the likes of Taliban towing. Majorly, the occupants of the country can now go about their productive work without threats from the insurgents.

This law is effective in its own ways, and even when it is applied in some major problems like the one, which was noted in Iraq in the year 2003, it can be seen to be most effective. According to Guglielmo (Aug 2001, p.733-768), the case of Afghanistan was very unique, and this is because it started at calling the international interest because initially, this problem never attracted such interest. Afterwards, the United States of America embarked on building the nation, and the first thing that the country had to do was to root out the groups that were causing mayhems in the country. One of those groups was the Taliban, and was the group that was purported to harbor terrorists. The country could again stand and have governance that respects the wills of the people, and thanks to the application of the International Humanitarian law that interested groups such as the United States of America and other forces allowed by the United Nations that the nation can now govern itself.

The law as viewed by O’Connel (2002, p.63-79) offers indispensable directions and guidance for the making of major decisions such as intervention in the Afghan state. Such kind of development made sure that the country would be guided through to build a prosperous nation; a nation that is ruled by law and order and where insurgents groups are not allowed to cause instability. As noted by the United Nation, more than 3 million people were in dire need of help, and therefore, going to prevent this by the use of this law was appropriate and timely. However, there are some challenges that can be seen in this application, and as written by Torrente (Sept 2008, p.2-8), the intervention led to the creation of some imaginary super power such as the United States. According to him, the United States was to become a major player in everything that concerns the stability of nations in the world making it super power above all.

Current situation in Afghan country

Now, the country is hard hit by extreme poverty, and when this is coupled by continued natural disasters as well as conflict, it makes the situation worse. In the year 2010, more than 100000 people were displaced from their residences and as per the year 2011, the record had hit more than 319000 people who are displaced in the country. This number is rising steadily, and it would not be a surprise if the number hits 200,000 marks in the coming months. The trend may continue, and if this is not put to a halt, then, the humanitarian crisis would be the worst. More than when the American military hit in search for the insurgents who were said to harbor terrorists amongst them.

The security as well is a continued problem in this country and this is making the United Nations as well as the aid agencies in reaching the communities. However, it can be noted that the United Nations and the Aid Agencies, which are mostly from the United States, are doing their best to curb the situation and it is expected that the looming humanitarian crisis would be put to a halt in the near future. Security is important, and it can be noted that the United States Military forces are doing their best to curb the situation of insecurity to the vulnerable persons and slowly by slowly the situation may bear some good fruits.

The two actors in this have noted that this chronic need for the humanitarian aid needs some sustained commitment from the whole of the international community and especially in addressing the root causes of this poverty. As well, some internal steps are being taken to reduce the impact of the catastrophes like Health and poverty. For example, the Ministry of Public Health in conjunction with the World Health Organization launched series of eye camps to serve the persons considered as less fortunate in the country in the year 2010.

Data analysis

From the qualitative results discussed above, it is clear that there have been fruitful efforts that have generally brought to an end the humanitarian crises that have generally threatened to tear off the country. Even though because of these wars many of the Afghan people were affected, the measures that have been implemented by United Nations and other volunteers like the United States aid agencies have bore fruits. In the present world, the situation cannot be said to be as bad as it was almost a decade a go when the United States of America in conjunction with other allies struck the country to remove the insurgents. However, it can be argued that the efforts to root out the insurgents such as Taliban in the country was in good course and with the group almost neutralized, it then means that the perennial problem of terrorism threat is as good as managed. The United Nations especially has not relented to report the humanitarian crisis to interested parties to make the situation contained using the best means possible that can be mastered. This has made other international concerned groups especially the non-profitable organizations come to the aid of the country with all manners of help and more so easing the pain that the residents were going through.

From the analysis of how major wars have been managed, at the start it seemed that the great powers; for example, the United States. The United Kingdom on one side and the Soviet Union on the other side meant that the war turned to be a war of the mighty and in the midst; many people of the Afghan nation were affected. However, such a thing was to end immediately and the situations managed; even though, the problem was to re-emerge in the years from 2001 after the terrorist attack with the United States government claimed that the insurgents or the perpetrators of this terrorism were being harbored by the insurgents such as Taliban. This group was believed to be in such a country, and therefore, the military from the United States of America went ahead to hit the group killing people in the end. However, the same military was to engage in humanitarian efforts to restore the country to its feet again showing that the major cause of violence was to root out the dangerous groups, which could also be said to pose some threats to the host country as well.

Reflection of the Afghan situation

In most cases, wars in the world take the shape of the mighty versus the weak; that is, the weak countries are attacked at will by the strong nations. This is the case of the Afghan nation; a weak country that on major occasions has found itself entangled between the contentions of the strong. For example, the Soviet Afghan war was a war of the mighty where on both sides; there were strong nations of the calibers of United States, United Kingdom with the other side having the Soviet Union nations. However, in all of these situations, the poor people of the Afghan nation have suffered; for example, the Soviet Afghan war led to almost 2 million people being killed in the war, almost 10 million people fleeing from their native land to seek refugee in other countries and the Afghan refugees constituting more than half of the worlds refugee population. However, overall, it can be noted that there have been fruitful efforts that have made all of these situations be well managed especially with international players like United Nations and American aid agencies responding positively to the crisis.


Application of the law should not be selective, but should cut across everywhere, and that is what the International Humanitarian law does. Essentially, the law is clear that no state should invade another especially when such invasions lead to major humanitarian crisis. As well, internal conflicts are prohibited and the groups that extend this face the full strength of this law. This paper has analyzed the application of the Humanitarian law and evaluates how it was effective in bringing down tension in Afghanistan, which had built up since the year 1979. Tension in this country was because of many conflicts. Both internal and external and in the year 2001, the United States invaded the country destroying major properties and causing a major humanitarian crisis. However, the sole aim was to root out the dangerous insurgents. The Taliban and other groups that were causing instability in the country. The summary is that there was total effectiveness in doing so, and what can be noted is that the country got to its feet again and now has legitimate governance. Governance is free of interference from dangerous insurgents and even thought they still exist, they do not cause mayhem as was noted before.


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