Red Cross has come under severe criticism in Afghanistan after it accepted that it has been training scores of Taliban militants, battling NATO and Afghan forces, the basic techniques of first aid.
More than 70 members of the "armed opposition" received training in April, the Red Cross said – a move likely
to anger the government of Hamid Karzai, which is losing large numbers of police and soldiers in insurgent attacks.
"The Red Cross in Afghanistan has been teaching the Taliban basic first aid and giving insurgents medical equipment so that fighters wounded during battles with NATO and Afghan government forces can be treated in the field," the Guardian reported today.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had introduced the classes because pitched battles, landmines and roadblocks stopped people in the most volatile areas from getting to hospital.
The Red Cross, which aims to remain neutral in the conflict, has trained more than 100 Afghan soldiers and policemen, as well as a network of taxi drivers who operate an unofficial ambulance service in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
Today, a leading figure in Kandahar's local government, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the Taliban did "not deserve to be treated like humans".
He said: "They are like animals, and they treat the people they capture worse than animals. They kidnapped and killed an American lady and then wouldn't even return her body. These people don't deserve this help."
The Afghan ministries of defence and the interior said they were unable to comment on what they described as a highly
A Nato spokesman in Kabul said: "Nato has tremendous respect for the humanitarian work carried out by the ICRC and we recognise the need for this work to be carried out impartially.
"Isaf [Nato] forces also provide treatment to any case caught up in this conflict, including our opponents, in line
with our own obligation to respect the rules of armed conflict."
One of the ICRC-trained drivers, who transports sick and wounded people from Sangin district in Helmand, where some of the most fierce fighting is taking place, to Mirwais hospital in Kandahar city, told the ICRC that roadblocks and insecurity had lengthened the journey to six or seven hours, rather than the normal two.
The International Committee of the Red Cross runs hospitals in Afghanistan, visits prisoners on both sides of the conflict and co-operates on various projects with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, a separate organisation, on various projects.