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International Red Cross To 'Drastically' Cut Afghan Presence After Attacks

Patients are evacuated from the Red Cross hospital, following an attack at a clinical facility in Mazar-e Sharif on September 11.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on October 9 that it will "drastically" reduce its operations in Afghanistan following the killing of seven of its staff in attacks this year.

The ICRC has been operating for more than 30 years in Afghanistan, where it has its fourth-largest humanitarian program.

The Red Cross announcement highlights the deteriorating security situation for aid groups operating in the war-wracked country.

"Exposure to risk has become our greatest challenge and concern," Monica Zanarelli, head of the ICRC in Afghanistan, told the media in Kabul.

"We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence in Afghanistan," she said.

Zanarelli added that the decision would particularly affect operations in the north, where facilities in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz would be either shut down or downsized.

The ICRC was not "leaving" Afghanistan, but it was necessary to review the organization's presence to prevent more losses, Zanarelli said.

The Red Cross had already warned of the threat to its operations following a series of attacks over the past year.

According to U.S. military estimates, the Afghan government controls no more than 60 percent of the country, with the rest either controlled or contested by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP
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