As President Barack Obama prepares for a much-anticipated meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai next week in Washington, DC, aid agency Oxfam International urges the two leaders to prioritize the safety of millions of Afghan civilians who continue to be caught in the conflict. The Presidents are expected to discuss peace and reconciliation plans for the upcoming peace jirga scheduled for the end of May in Kabul.
Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser said:
"This meeting must be more than just a photo opportunity for the two presidents. Substantive talks are needed as the lives of millions of Afghans hang in the balance. The needs of ordinary Afghans, particularly women and young girls, must be the top priority on the presidents' agenda.
"As Presidents Obama and Karzai meet on Wednesday, it's crucial for both leaders to take an honest look at the situation facing civilians in Afghanistan. Aid agencies have seen that instability and insecurity limit the delivery of services like healthcare and education for Afghans all over the country and the situation - particularly in the south and south east - is rapidly deteriorating.
“All parties to the conflict must do more to protect civilians from the violence, but certainly pro-government forces must take all possible measures to ensure the Afghans are not harmed in the course of ongoing operations in places like Marjah and Kandahar.
“Having lived through the last 30 years of conflict, Afghans are among the poorest people on the planet. As the leaders meet next week in Washington, they should make sure that Afghan needs and interests are at the heart of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan. The presidents should also underscore that the rights of Afghans, especially those of women, will not be sidelined or sacrificed in the process of developing peace and reconciliation policies."