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Saturday, 17 November, 2001, 06:06 GMT
Troop deployment divides aid agencies
Afghan child in Quetta
UN says enough food is getting in to stave off famine
There is disagreement among international aid agencies about the effect of the deployment of international troops in Afghanistan.

The United Nations World Food Programme says secure conditions are imperative to deliver aid to six million people across the country. Its director, Catherine Bertini, has welcomed the deployment of international troops.

She said the agency had met its monthly target for food convoys into the country for the first time.

But Medecins sans Frontieres has said a military presence could compromise the independent reputation of the agencies.

Aid for Afghanistan is being stockpiled in Termez
Supplies piling up at the Afghan-Uzbek border
MSF's operations director in Afghanistan, Christopher Stokes, also said that the arrival of French troops currently on their way to the northern town of Mazar-e Sharif had aroused suspicions among the local population.

To date only a limited number of soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan, but more British troops are expected in the coming days and France has announced that it is to send troops and planes to help humanitarian operations.

Earlier, the aid agency Oxfam called for an immediate airlift of food into Afghanistan because of the continuing insecurity of land routes.

UN aid agencies say they have begun sending international staff back into the country for the first time since the American-led air strikes on Afghanistan began.

But the breakdown in law and order and reports of looting in some areas has meant that UN food convoys have not left from Pakistan in the past three days.

Mr Stokes says the looting in Mazar has targeted ethnic Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in the country but in a minority in the north.

Getting supplies to certain north-west provinces, such as Badghis and Ghor, is almost impossible.

Military help

Oxfam said it wanted airlifts of food to be carried out as soon as possible.

And as a last resort, the military could even be involved.

The spokesman said the announcement that British troops had arrived at Bagram to look at turning the airport into a hub for humanitarian relief flights was encouraging, but the project could take weeks.

A spokeswoman for the World Food Programme said supplies were coming in from other countries including Uzbekistan, and they already had some stocks.

She said they would assess the situation next week and discuss other options including airlifts.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | South Asia
New wave of refugees feared
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN prepares major Afghan relief effort
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