The joint call for a new approach comes after a poll found that most Britons are unclear about what the UK government’s goals are in Afghanistan and only one in four believe the current strategy is working well.
A YouGov Afghan poll, commissioned by the aid organisations, found that 58 percent of the public said they were uncertain what Britain was trying to achieve there, while only 26 percent thought the current approach was working effectively.
“Afghanistan’s development is being undermined by the current conflict. More and more civilians are being killed in the fighting,” said Serena Di Matteo, Christian Aid’s country director.
“The UK government must now give its backing to a comprehensive peace process which helps bring an end to the conflict. Any peace agreement must respect the rights of all Afghan citizens, especially those of women,’ Di Matteo said.
Oxfam’s country director Manohar Shenoy warned that Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries on earth, with one Afghan woman dying in pregnancy and another of tuberculosis every half an hour.
“Aid is desperately needed, but at the moment far too much is given to areas where troops are rather than distributed according to need. Afghans have put up with decades of grinding poverty and deserve better,” Shenov said.
Britain, which has the second biggest foreign deployment in Afghanistan with some 9,500 troops, is due to end combat operation by 2014 but the poll found that 83 per cent of people in the UK believed Afghanistan will still be at war in three years time.
Chris Langdon, managing director of the Oxford Research Group, said that many Afghans have “little trust” in the foreign forces that are meant to protect them.
“That trust erodes further every time Afghan civilians are killed and injured in air strikes or night raids, and every time there are allegations that internationally-backed Afghan security forces have abused their positions of power,” Langton said.
“International and Afghan forces must ensure there is full transparency in the recording of civilian casualties and that all allegations of misconduct, harm or loss of innocent life of civilians are thoroughly and transparently investigated,” he said
The launch of the ‘Together Afghanistan’ campaign comes the day after President Hamid Karzai proceeded to announce a handover from NATO troops to Afghan security forces in seven areas on Tuesday.
It follows the release of new UN figures showing the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan rose to over 2,700 in 2010, the deadliest year since the start of the current conflict nearly a decade ago.