Ashley Jackson of the Humanitarian Policy Group and Antonio Giustozzi from King's College London have produced an invaluable discussion paper on the Taliban's attitude to NGOs.
Talking to the Other Side: Humanitarian engagement with the Taliban in Afghanistan looks in particular at Faryab and Kandahar provinces, noting that whilst at a leadership level there are clear attitudes towards foreign NGOs, at a local level commanders exert considerable discretion and flexibility.
Although senior and provincial Taliban leaders state that where an aid agency obtains its funding does not influence access, in practice many local commanders are suspicious of projects funded by ISAF troop-contributing countries. They were also hostile towards Western notions of women's rights. "In general, but particularly pronounced at local level, there is deep and prevalent hostility towards aid organisations and a general difficulty in distinguishing between different actors (NGOs, UN agencies, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), for-profit contractors, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and so on)."
This is an extremely useful report that highlights the dilemmas facing local Afghan staff who may recognise the need to speak to Taliban power brokers, but are prevented from doing so by a culture of 'don't ask, don't tell', within NGOs. That in turn increases the risk that local staff will be seen as 'spies' working for foreigners.
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