A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security


Contractor on UN guest house assault

In this video Chris Turner, an American private contractor, talks about his first hand experience of the suicide attack on the guest house in Kabul.

Attackers target UN staff in Kabul guest house

Yesterday Taliban militants wearing police uniforms carried out a complex suicide attack on a privately owned guest house in Kabul. A two hour fire fight resulted in the deaths of six UN staff members.

This video from STRATFOR has a quick summary and analysis of the attack. Its well worth watching if you have the bandwidth.

In the aftermath of this attack we are already seeing the inevitable calls for a complete review of security procedures for UN and NGO staff in Kabul. There will be a flurry of activity as outside security consultants are called in and security assessment teams from regional NGO offices descend on Kabul. Numerous reports will be written, fingers will be pointed, and a couple of people may even lose their jobs. Unfortunately many will come to the conclusion that this incident was an unanticipated and unforeseen escalation of the threat.

The problem is that it is just not true. The writing has been on the wall for the past two years. There have been numerous incidents of surveillance on UN and NGO buildings and staff. The Taliban and their allies have also repeatedly made it clear, both in word and deed, that they do not view the UN and most NGOs as neutral.

Selected Attacks, Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2009

1 Feb 2009 - Charbagh, Pakistan - Two MSF medical staff were killed when their clearly marked ambulances were fired upon in Charbagh.

2 Feb 2009 - Quetta, Pakistan - A driver with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was killed and John Solecki, the head of the local UNHCR office, was kidnapped.

9 Jun 2009 - Peshawar, Pakistan - 5 U.N. workers are among those killed in a complex suicide attack on the Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar.

18 Aug 2009 - Kabul, Afghanistan - Two Afghans working for the U.N. were killed during a suicide vehicle bomb attack on a NATO convoy.

5 Oct 2009 - Islamabad, Pakistan - Five World Food Program (WFP) staff were killed and four others injured after a suicide bomber disguised as a Frontier Corps soldier was allowed to walk into the WFP office under the simple pretext of being allowed to use the toilet. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility with the following words: "We proudly claim the responsibility for the suicide attack at the U.N. office in Islamabad. We will send more bombers for such attacks. The U.N. and other foreign (aid groups) are not working for the interest of Muslims. We are watching their activities. They are infidels."


1. Dig out previous security risk assessments and physical security audits and make sure you've actually implemented the recommendations contained within.
2. If your existing security risk assessments and physical security audits are older than six and twelve months respectively update them now.
3. Ensure your Crisis Response Plan is current and practice it quarterly.
4. Implement a counter-surveillance plan.
5. Make sure you have a plan to respond if hostile surveillance is detected. Knowing your organization is being surveilled has little value if you are unable to respond to the fact.
6. Train as many staff as possible in personal counter-surveillance and surveillance detection.
7. Allow flexible work hours and 'work from home' policies.
8. Review access control procedures and ensure that guards are actually following them.
9. Limit visitors and insist on advance appointments.
10. Identify proper medical support.
11. Pull out all the stops on your active acceptance plan. You are unlikely to influence the Taliban and their supporters but you are going to need all the support and goodwill you can get from neighbours, beneficiaries, and local police.

The Future

As governmental and UN organizations continue to improve their security measures to deal with the militant threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan more and more of the risk burden will fall on softer targets, including NGOs. I assess their is a 70 to 80% chance that there will be VBIED or complex attack on an NGO facility in Afghanistan or Pakistan within the next twelve months. Are you ready?

Two UNAMA staff killed in Kabul suicide attack

Two Afghan staff with UNAMA were killed in this morning’s suicide attack in Kabul according to a statement by UN Special Representative Kai Eide.

“I am shocked and greatly saddened to have learned that two of my staff members were among those killed in today’s suicide bombing on Kabul’s Jalalabad Road.

A third colleague has been wounded and is currently being treated for his injuries. All are nationals of Afghanistan.

At this time UNAMA is in the process of contacting the families of our colleagues to inform them of this tragedy. And we will grieve together. I condemn completely those responsible.”

Afghan aid worker killed in neighbourhood dispute

On 18 July 2009, an Afghan driver working for an INGO in Jalalabad was shot and killed during an apparent neighbourhood dispute. While the exact circumstances surrounding the case are unclear (as is usual in Afghanistan) it does not appear that the incident was related to the driver’s work with the INGO.

The driver’s son was badly beaten during the incident.

Vacancy - ANSO Regional Safety Advisor - Afghanistan

As part of Welthungerhilfe’s country program ANSO is a project to support security awareness and security management capability amongst, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan with offices in Jalalabad, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-I-Sharif and Kabul. The post is to be filled immediately and is initially scheduled to end on 30.06.2010.

Tasks and responsibilities of position

The RSA provides NGOs with credible information and contextual analysis of the local and regional security situation. The RSA will liaise closely with NGOs, the UN, the military, and other national and international security agencies to obtain security information. The RSA will be responsible for writing comprehensive weekly reports on the provincial and regional security situation as it relates to NGOs as well as for producing daily incident reports, threat warnings and facilitating weekly NGO security meetings in his/her region of responsibility. The RSA will also play a less frequent role in assisting NGO to develop their own security management capacities through reviewing policy, site-security surveys and evacuation planning.

The RSA will also be responsible for the management of the regional ANSO office. This includes supervising up to 10 national staff and oversight of local logistics and administration. The RSA may be deployed alone to any one of the five regional offices.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences, Political or Security studies, or related field
  • Proven experience in security report writing and analysis (sample will be requested)
  • Min. 3 years of practical experience in security management, training or analysis role in a relevant organizational setting
  • Familiarity with the philosophy, priorities and principals of NGOs
  • Min. 3 years work experience in post-conflict or complex emergency environment
  • Excellent social, analytical and diplomacy skills
  • Exemplary command of English language

  • Experience in NGO security management
  • Police/Military/Analysts background with at least 3 years civilian security sector experience
  • Ability to develop and maintain culturally and socially diverse relationships and contacts
  • Experience of staff capacity development, training and knowledge transfer
  • Ability to conduct trainings in security/safety related area of specialty

You can expect to work in an exceptionally motivated team and to be assigned responsible duties. Naturally, you will be thoroughly briefed about your responsibilities beforehand. Our offer includes regular rest and recreation days.

Please send a cover letter and CV by e-mail, quoting the reference code "AFG 5609", by 15th of August 2009 to Thomas Gies ( recruitment.gies@welthungerhilfe.de )

NGO security guard killed in crossfire in Afghanistan

On 6 July, an off duty security guard working with an undisclosed INGO was killed during a clash between Coalition forces and Afghan militants in the area of Khada Khel village, Sherzad District, Nangarhar Province.

Source: ANSO

Afghan aid worker murdered in Afghanistan

On 11 July an Afghan aid worker working for an undisclosed INGO in Afghanistan was shot to death by armed men who broke in to his residence in the Dare Kalan area of Kapisa province. The circumstances surrounding the death are unclear.

Source: ANSO

Deminers released, health workers still held

The sixteen humanitarian deminers kidnapped in Afghanistan on Saturday have been released. Apparently tribal local tribal elders were able to negotiate the release of the team.

Two Afghan staff from the Netherlands based HealthNet TPO (HNI) who were also kidnapped on Saturday in nearby Khost province remain unaccounted for.

Sixteen humanitarian deminers kidnapped in Afghanistan

Sixteen humanitarian deminers from the Mine Detection and Dog Centre in Afghanistan were seized by unidentified gunmen on Saturday, 5 July. The group was taken while travelling along the Logar to Gardez road. So far, there have been no claims of responsibility.

The Logar to Gardez road is considered unsafe for travel by many NGOs, who travel the route only when essential and in unmarked vehicles. Last August
five IRC staff were killed in an ambush on the same road.

View Logar-Gardez Road in a larger map

Gunmen kidnap 16 Afghan UN demining workers-police

Vacancy - Security Advisor (ELECT Project) - Afghanistan

UNDP Afghanistan is looking for a Security Advisor for the ELECT project in Afghanistan. The position closes on 15 July 2009.

Reporting to the Chief of Operations ELECT, the Security Advisor ELECT performs the following duties:

Threat and Risk Assessment:
  • Conducts threat and risk assessments of operations in the districts and regions where UNDP ELECT staff work and identifies and implements appropriate risk mitigation measures;
  • Assists and provides UNDP ELECT specific inputs to the Department of Safety and Security Chief Security Advisor (DSS CSA), while reviewing and updating the country threat and risk assessment.
  • Formulation of the Security Plan:
  • Formulates a security plan for UNDP ELECT;
  • Provides inputs and assisting the CSA establishing, maintaining and updating the country specific security plan and contingency plans in accordance with the UN Field Security Handbook (FSH).
  • Advises the Chief Electoral Advisor regarding security;
  • Advises the Chief Electoral Advisor, Chief of Operations, Field Operations and programme/project managers, to ensue mainstream security in project planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation;
  • Reviews the impact of security factors (both positive and negative) on the work of UNDP ELECT, and makes appropriate recommendations.
  • Security Plan and Minimum Operating Security Standards:
  • Works closely with DSS CSA to ensure that UNDP ELECT procedures conform to the UN security framework;
  • Ensures that all UNDP ELECT personnel are included in the Security Plan of the respective duty stations, being prepared by the DSS CSA;
  • Assists in the development of a functional emergency business continuity plan for ELECT, in accordance with the UN Country Team business continuity plan;
  • Takes necessary action to secure security clearances for all UNDP ELECT staff travelling in security phase areas;
  • Ensures that UNDP ELECT personnel and equipment are MOSS compliant;
  • Ensures that staff members are provided with; and proficient in the use of, safety equipment, including communications equipment, vehicle emergency equipment and personal security safeguards required for work in the field;
  • Establishes internal communication systems and ensures UNDP ELECT communications are integrated into the appropriate UN Security Communications System;
  • Provides advice on selection and procurement of appropriate equipment for security (vehicles, telecommunications equipment, etc.);
  • Provides orientation and training to international and national staff members on security guidelines, communication procedures, travel precautions, emergency procedures and existing restrictions in movement, such as curfews, restricted and dangerous areas;
  • Coordinates with DSS CSA 24-hour response to all security related incidents involving UNDP ELECT staff and eligible dependents;
  • Liaises, in coordination with the DSS CSA, with local authorities responsible for security, law and order, counterparts in diplomatic missions and municipal/civic/traditional leaders.
Sharing of Information:
  • Provides timely and accurate security advice to the Chief Electoral Advisor, Chief of Operations ELECT, UNDP Afghanistan Management, CTA’s, project managers and visiting consultants;
  • Reports all security–related incidents involving UNDP ELECT staff and eligible dependents to the Country Security Officer, DRR (O) and CSA;
  • Ensures that UNDP ELECT programme staff members are provided with situation reports and other appropriate security related information generated by DSS;
  • Maintains updated UNDP ELECT staff lists, including details of visiting missions and consultants;
  • Establishes, in coordination with DSS CSA, good relationships, with national law enforcement, military and civil intelligence authorities, counterparts in the Diplomatic Missions and municipal/civic/traditional leaders;
  • Encourages an exchange of information relative to risk management for UNDP ELECT programme implementation;
  • Conducts investigations, in conjunction with the DSS CSA, in to the death of UNDP ELECT staff/family member/s under suspicious and unclear circumstances;
  • Participates in inter-agency security coordination efforts.
Office and Residential Security:
  • Conducts periodic security assessments of UNDP ELECT premises and equipment and advises on shortfalls in security preparedness with recommended improvements and solutions;
  • Assists UNDP ELECT in developing and implementing office security requirements for regional offices and offices of UNDP ELECT-implemented projects;
  • Establishes and implements access control mechanisms (visitor/vehicle screening) as necessary for UNDP ELECT regional and project offices based on the security phase;
  • Represents UNDP ELECT security interests in any common premises that UNDP ELECT occupies ensuring that staff safety and security are primary considerations;
  • Ensures UNDP ELECT premises and international staff residences are MOSS and MORSS compliant;
  • Coordinates the establishment of the UN House system in all duty stations and project locations in Afghanistan, from a security point of view;
  • Conducts residential security surveys of UN international staff and recommending physical security measures to the staff member (on request provide this assistance to national staff);
  • Prepares justification for residential security measures, as required;
  • Advises staff on obtaining domestic drivers/servants/assistants
Additional Duties:
  • Leads and manages the ELECT Security section consisting of three international Security Specialists, one international Information Analyst, and the national Security Associate, Security Assistant, Guard supervisor and twenty Guards;
  • Undertakes any additional duties, tasks and responsibilities necessary for the successful implementation of the project.

Go to the UNDP jobs site for more details or to apply for the position.

Vacancy - Security Officers - Afghanistan

UNDP has two vacancies for security officers in Afghanistan. The positions are Kabul based but there is a possibility of travel to other provinces.

Under the direct supervision of the Security Advisor, the Security Specialist undertakes the following duties:

· Prepares, co-ordinates and manages ongoing security planning for the Afghan In dependent Election Commission (IEC) and ongoing operations in co-operation with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Coalition Force, and the Afghan Ministry for Interior and Ministry of Defense;
· Responsible for the planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of all crisis and emergency preparedness measures in support of IEC operations;
· Provides coordination and direction to both host country and international security actors ensuring a seamless integrated IEC security strategy;
· Briefs key leadership on security developments relating to IEC Operations;
· Coordinates the passage of relevant incident based security related information to UNDP Security, UNDSS, and other UN Agencies, Coalition Forces, and to the Afghan Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense;
· Provides the Strategy Security Group (SSG) with weekly briefings concerning the overall security environment and its effect on the security of the IEC;
· Provides risk Management solutions to key leadership as required;
· Conducts risk analysis and threat assessments concerning the security situations as it affects the National Assembly;
· Works with the ELECT Chief Electoral Advisor, her deputy and UNDP to further develop the project component for ongoing security advice and support within the ELECT Project;
· Advises on implementing the future phase of ELECT Project;
· Provides day to day supervision of the national security unit comprising the Security Associate, Security Assistant, Guard Supervisor and 20 Guards;
· Overall responsibility for the management of security of all UN Staff in the ELECT Project;
· Coordinates closely with UNDP Chief Field Security Advisor to ensure implementation of all UN/UNDP related security measures for ELECT UN Staff;
· Performs other duties, tasks and responsibilities required for the successful implementation of the project.

Go to the UNDP jobs site for more details or to apply for the position.

Three aid workers killed in Afghan IED attack

On 23 June 2009 three Afghan aid workers with Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan were killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Jowzjan province, Afghanistan.

The three aid workers, two engineers and a driver, were returning from a project site in the district of Aqcha (Aqcheh) when their car was struck by the remotely detonated IED. The massive explosion killed the trio instantly.

Vacancy - NGO Security Coordinator - Afghanistan

International Medical Corps is actively recruiting for a Security Coordinator to support its activities in Afghanistan.

1. The Security Coordinator will be responsible for security management as an advisor to the country director and will respond to emergency and crises situations where and when needed
2. Coordinate and provide training to field staff (Expatriates & Nationals)
3. Act as a liaison with local and regional officials, UN, NGO and other agencies regarding security issues in the planning, coordination, promotion of, and support for existing and future IMC projects
4. Collect, author, compile and analyze security related reports, SOP’s and humanitarian related security information from multiple sources ensuring IMC’s security posture is current and relevant to the situation on the ground
5. Track and report on relevant incidences, near misses, and the geopolitical situation in Afghanistan
6.Design and implement physical and operational security plans, make assessments and work within budget to implement safeguards for the protection of staff, assets and benificiaries
6. Support and build the capacity of national security staff
7. Work with HQ security to insure the proper implementation of security policies and procedures

1. 5 years of field security experience in hostile environments
2. 1 to 3 years in Afghanistan
3. Advance First Aid training
4. Previous experience working in NGO
5. Ability to exercise sound judgment and make decisions independently
6. Extremely flexible with the ability to cope with stressful situations and frustrations
7. Ability to relate to and motivate local and international staff effectively and diplomatically
8. Creativity and the ability to work with limited resources
9. Excellent decision making skills
10. Must be able to work independently under difficult conditions

You’ll need to visit the IMC jobs site to apply.

NGO staff member killed in Kandahar

The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) is reporting that a national staff member of an INGO has been assassinated in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The staff member was apparently shot several times in the head. Night letters, anonymous fliers distributed at night, had recently been posted in the area threatening anyone working for foreign organizations.

Although ANSO indicates that details are sketchy and caution that details may change they quite rightly point out that NGO’s should take the information at face value until further information becomes available.

Vacancy - Regional Security Advisor - Afghanistan/Pakistan

NRC seeks a regional NGO security advisor for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More details

Qwam System Charts

A while ago I was struggling to understand influence and social connections in Afghanistan. It seemed to me that more than a few Afghans in positions of authority had trusted contacts on both sides of the conflict. It was something I didn’t really understand until I came across references to the Afghan Qwam (or Qaum) system.

I can’t claim any great insight beyond the simplistic explanation that a Qwam is a shifting solidarity network that exists for the benefit of the group and its members. Qwams compete with one another for influence and resources but there is also competition within the group. It appears that Qwams, at least in Afghanistan’s current fractured society, cut across family, tribal, and even ethnic boundaries.

Afghan Qwam Clip

In an effort to better understand the Qwam concept I mapped some connections in Analyst’s Notebook. Since I never used them for anything beyond my own efforts at understanding I’m making them available here. Maybe some of you smart types out there can make better use of it.

Qwam - Analyst’s Notebook version
Qwam - .pdf version

Vacancy - Security Coordinator for Afghan Women’s Project - Afghanistan

Position: Security Coordinator for Afghan Women’s Project
Reports to: Program Manager
Location: Kabul, Afghanistan


The Security Coordinator will be responsible for leading security and safety preparedness, practice, and response for in-country staff and any visitors to the programs.


Duties: The Security Coordinator for Afghanistan will:

• Lead security and safety preparedness, practice, and response for the RI-Afghanistan Women’s Civil Society Program;
• Develop RI-Afghanistan security and safety policy with the Headquarters Global Security Director and Afghanistan senior management team;
• Supported by the Security Coordinator, the Security Coordinator will liaise with the Afghan Government, United Nations, Multi-National Forces in Afghanistan, and other organizations when necessary;
• Supported by the Security Coordinator and three national Regional Security Associates, routinely assess security and safety conditions for staff housing, offices, travel, and recreation, as well as trends by location, routinely enhance the policy manual, practice, and response capacity to match;
• Supported by Headquarters, the Security Coordinator, and three national Regional Security Associates, the Security Coordinator will lead the preparation and conduct of pre- and post-deployment orientations for staff and visitors, as well as arrange advanced security trainings and psychosocial support.


The Security Coordinator will report to the Headquarters Global Security Director, liaise with the Afghanistan senior management team, and oversee national Regional Security Associates. The Security Coordinator will be responsible for leading security and safety preparedness, practice, and response for in-country staff and any visitors to the programs.


• Minimum 10 years aid-related experience in crisis zones;
• Minimum 5 years in role as security officer for aid-related programming;
• Experience with aid security policy and practice in crisis settings in at least three different cultural contexts;
• Knowledge of ICRC Code of Conduct, as well as Interaction and UNDSS security standards required;
• Extensive cross-cultural training experience;
• Strong English language communication skills;
• Experience in Afghanistan a big plus;
• Pashto or Dari languages a plus.

For consideration please submit all of the following: a detailed CV, cover letter, salary history, and a list of 3 previous supervisors (including email address, mailing address, and telephone number) to Human Resources, Relief International. Email to: hrinternational@ri.org. Subject line must include: Security Coordinator - AFGHANISTAN.

Vacancy - Regional Security Advisor - Afghanistan/Pakistan

NRC is looking for a regional security advisor to cover the challenging countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One released, another taken

Dany Egreteau, the French aid worker who has kidnapped on 3 November in Kabul has apparently been released unharmed.

Unfortunately this good news is tempered by the apparent abduction of Jestina Mukoko, the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project. Jestina was forced from her home in Harare by armed men in civilian clothing at 5 AM on 3 November. The Zimbabwe Peace Project local intelligence and police authorities are involved in the abduction.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project works to document violence and torture across Zimbabwe through a network of Peace Monitors.



CCF Aid Worker Killed in Afghanistan

On 30 November Mohamad Shar (52) was killed when a suicide bomber attacked a passing vehicle. Shar had been working for Christian Children's Fund (CCF) for 18 months. He leaves behind a wife and six children.

Its difficult to understand the impact that Shar’s loss will have on his family. Shar wasn’t the target of the suicide attack but it is his family and the families of other victims who suffer the consequences.

Below is the story of Sami’s family. Sami was also killed in a suicide attack in Kabul on either 29 or 30 November. It may well have been the same attack killed Shar.

Mother (the first woman): My lovely son, oh my son my son.

Anchor: This is Sami’s family. Sami, who had worked for six years as a cleaner in Kabul city, was killed yesterday by suicide attack while he cleaned the street. Sami left five children behind. His oldest child is seven years. According to Sami’s wife he was the sole breadwinner of the family. After him there is no one to help this family.

Sami’s wife: My husband was a cleaner and he is dead now. He was supporting us and providing food. I am asking Karzai what should I do with my orphan children now and how should I feed them.

Anchor: These children are waiting for their father to come home. They do not understand that their father is never returning.

Eldest daughter: My uncle came and said Daddy had hurt his leg only then they brought his dead body.

Eldest son: He took his bicycle and his bag to bring food for us.

Anchor: Sami had two brothers and his brothers say they are not able to help the children. They are street cart porters and barely make a living (for their own families).

Eldest brother: I heard Sami was injured. When I arrived there I saw his body was torn into pieces.

Second brother: I went and saw his body was torn into pieces. The body was bleeding all the way to the cemetery. Why? We are all terrorized. Nothing left for us. Oh fear Allah; fear Quran! Why are they doing this to us?

Anchor: This is the second attack in this street. The first one killed five city cleaners and injured seven.

UN Contract Worker Killed in Afghanistan

On 26 November Belqis Mazloomyar, a UNHCR contract worker, women's rights activist, and community worker, was killed by unknown gunmen in Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. She was shot during a local shura meeting at Lower Sheikh Mesri, a temporary settlement for returnees. The identity of the perpetrators and their motives remain unclear.

More: Statement by Kai Eide, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan

Reasons to be Thankful

Today is the day that Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Going through my email and news feeds I’ve been thinking of things to be thankful for.

First and foremost for me is that Bev did not make it as far as Mumbai on her break from the dangers of Afghanistan. Fortunately for her the attacks began before she could leave Delhi.

Afghanistan hasn’t been quiet either of course. A suicide bombing near the American embassy in Kabul disrupted Thanksgiving Day activities, killing at least four people.

Aid Worker Daily points to another reason to be thankful. I could have been born in eastern Congo rather than western Canada. Condition: Critical highlights the struggles of those living in war torn Congo.

Most of all this morning I am thankful that I am not Dany Egreteau the French aid worker kidnapped in Kabul on 3 November. Warning: The video contains graphic and disturbing images.

Have courage brother. Rest assured that there are many working for your safe return.

Women, War, Aid and Reconstruction in Afghanistan

I just ran across this interview with Kathy Ullyott, Homemakers Magazine’s editor-in-chief. I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy during her visit to Kabul. She struck me as thoughtful and perceptive. This interview does nothing to change that opinion. If you want an understanding of the challenges in Afghanistan that extends deeper than ‘body count’ headlines you owe it to yourself to take the time to listen to all six parts of the interview.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

You can also find a three part text transcript of the interview with additional photos at Digital Journal 1, 2. Part 3 should be out shortly.

Vacancy - Logistics and Security Manager - ACTED

ACTED has vacancies for Logistics and Security Managers in Afghanistan and Haiti.

Stop Walking! Updated

Warning: Rant Ahead

On 20 October Gayle Williams was shot and killed in Kabul while walking to work. This morning a French aid worker was reportedly kidnapped while walking in Karta Parwan.

I know that many international aid workers want to avoid “white 4x4 syndrome’” and hate the feeling of isolation that security precautions can bring. I know it. I understand it. However it is time to recognize that it is no longer safe for obvious foreign nationals to walk on the streets of Kabul. Certainly one may be only marginally safer in a vehicle but marginally safer is better than nothing.

As an international aid worker it might help to remember that the work you do has greater benefit than does your visible presence on the street.

Update: It looks like the French aid worker may not have been walking when he was kidnapped. I still stand by my advice though - stay off the streets until things improve.

French Aid Worker Kidnapped in Kabul

The details are still sketchy but it appears that a French aid worker has been kidnapped in Kabul this morning. According to various sources he was taken while walking in Karta Parwan, a suburb of Kabul. An Afghan, possibly with the National Directorate of Security, was shot when he tried to intervene.

More: Western aid worker kidnapped in Kabul, Afghan shot dead

Kabul Funeral for Gayle Williams

Vacancy - Aid and Security Researcher - Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) seeks an Aid and Security Researcher.

You can find out more, including details of how to apply for the job, at ReliefWeb.

Taliban Kill British woman aid worker in Kabul

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the murder of a female aid worker early on 20 October. Gayle Williams was targeted by two motorcycle riding gunmen while she walked along a Kabul street.

According to a Taliban spokesman, “We killed her for spreading Christian propaganda.”

Read more:
British woman aid worker killed in Afghan capital

Two French Aid Workers Kidnapped in Afghanistan

Two French aid workers from Action Against Hunger (ACF) were kidnapped in Afghanistan on Friday. The pair were taken at 1 AM as they slept in their ACF guest house in Nili, Day Kundi Province. The kidnappers reportedly tied up the local guards before fleeing with thier two victims.

According to ACF they have knowledge that the two staff members are still alive.

Kidnapping in Afghanistan: Two ACF Humanitarian Aid Workers Abducted
Two French aid workers kidnapped in Afghanistan

Vacancy - Security Specialist - Afghanistan

The UNDP/ELECT Project has a position for a Security Specialist. A full description is availalbe here or you can follow the links below.

  and  www.undp.org.af


TITLESecurity Specialist  
DUTY STATIONKabul, Afghanistan
VA IS AVAILABLE AThttp://jobs.undp.org/
DURATIONOne Year (renewable)
TYPE OF CONTRACTAppointment for Limited Duration (International)

Massive Suicide Blast Targets Indian Embassy in Kabul

Three Afghan NGO staff killed in Air Strike

On 3 July, three Afghan aid workers employed by an International NGO were reportedly killed in a Coalition Force (CF) air strike in Nuristan. Another staff member was wounded in the incident.

According to reports the aid workers were evacuating the area after receiving warnings of impending CF operations when their vehicle was caught in the air strike.

Two Merlin staff killed in Afghanistan

On 19 June unidentified armed men killed two Merlin staff members at a medical clinic in Kunduz. Dr. Sayid Masoom, the clinic head, and Mohammad Ewazewaz, the unarmed duty guard for the clinic, were fatally shot in the attack.

You can read Merlin’s statement at the link below.

Ahmed Rashid on Afghanistan and Pakistan

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid discusses the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Charlie Rose. This video is a timely summary of the region’s difficulties.

Vacancy - ANSO Director - Afghanistan

Welthungerhilfe is still seeking someone to fill the position of ANSO Director. This is an influential senior position. The incumbent will have the opportunity to shape the future of the NGO security process in Afghanistan.

ANSO is a project to support security awareness and security management capability amongst, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan with offices in Jalalabad, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-I-Sharif and Kabul.

You can find more details, including how to apply, at the link below.

30% of aid money is spent on security for aid agencies?

If you read this blog you’ve probably already seen the article above. I almost didn’t read it because it looked like yet another “aid is inefficient and ineffective article”. It was the reference to NGO security costs that caught my eye. According to Integrity Watch Afghanistan, “Between 15 to 30 percent of aid money is spent on security for aid agencies, the IWA report said...”

What? Really? Where did those numbers come from? Given the difficulty I’ve had in finding money for things as simple as burglar resistant doors and decent fencing I really have my doubts.

If you download the full report you’ll see this:

For instance, the contracted security of the Kabul-Kandahar road during its reconstruction* prevented the disarmament of the equivalent of a whole private militia. Serious estimates put the number of armed guards who were used by the aid agencies at tens of thousands. An estimated 15 to 30 percent of aid money has been spent on security.

Maybe that’s where things got confused. To be clear the meaning of the statement “15 to 30 percent of aid money has been spent on security” is nowhere near the same as, “Between 15 to 30 percent of aid money is spent on security for aid agencies...” While considerable donor money might go to ‘security’ in Afghanistan it includes things like security sector reform, demining, counter-narcotics, police training, etc. This is not the same thing as “security for aid agencies.”

I’m pretty confident that aid agencies are not spending 15 to 30 percent of their budgets on their own security. I know mine isn’t. Most NGOs do not use armed guards and security budgets are generally small even if you include what are traditional safety costs.

* To the best of my knowledge the vast majority of the work done on the Kabul-Kandahar road was done by private contractors, not aid workers.

Vacancy - Senior Operations Manager/NGO Security Coordinator - Afghanistan

The Academy for Educational Development (AED) has a position for a Senior Operations Manager / Security Coordinator in Afghanistan. The position summary is as follows:

Under the direct supervision of AED’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), and working closely with the AED Chiefs of Party (COPs), the Senior Operations Manager/Security Coordinator will ensure that AED staff in Afghanistan can accomplish project goals in a safe and secure manner. Based in Afghanistan, the Security Coordinator will develop a set of minimum safety and security standards, and security procedures and guidelines, in co-ordination with the COPs and AED’s contracted security firm, to be agreed upon by the COO and implemented through existing organizational lines of authority within Afghanistan. The individual will work closely with the AED COPs to ensure adherence to the security standards which will be monitored and reviewed regularly and updated as necessary given the changing security context. He/She will provide ongoing advice and guidance in relation to such things as establishing curfews where needed, money management policies and practice, dealing with checkpoints, tracking systems for staff movement and location, general transport policies and staff preparedness for handling acts of violence. He/She will also liaise with the designated security company to ensure smooth and timely provision of guards, personal security details, armored vehicles, and transport convoys and monitoring staff stress levels, as required.

More details and directions for applying are on the AED website.

Old Choices Come Back to Haunt NGOs in Afghanistan.

The Ghosts of Alexander have a great post on the The Politicization and Militarization of Aid to Afghanistan. As the ghosts quite rightly point out the process did not begin in 2001. It began much earlier and NGOs are still feeling the impact today.

To quote the ghosts again, “All it takes is for either the US, the Taliban, the locals or the central government to see it as political and becomes so...” Unfortunately that means your organization’s carefully crafted, acceptance based, security strategy disappears along with your perceived neutrality.

Read the whole post to see how your NGO’s choice of friends in the 80’s might be affecting your security today.

Vacancy - Regional NGO Security Advisor - Afghanistan/Pakistan

The Norwegian Refugee Council has a position for a Regional Security Advisor for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Frontline - Are the Taliban Winning?

In this video from the Frontline Club reporter Hamida Ghafour and author Ahmed Rashid discuss if the Taliban are set to regain control in Afghanistan or if they are they being slowly marginalised.

More Cartoons and More Threats

A Norwegian newspaper recently published a drawing of a man with Turban, having his clothes open and displaying a t-shirt with the text: "I am Mohammed, no one dares to print me”. The artist says that the half naked caricature represents the naked face of terrorism. However, it is fairly obvious that others may interpret the cartoon differently.
The drawing seems to be circulating quickly on Arabic websites. 

In an apparently unrelated, but likely synergistic threat, AQ seems to include Norway as well as other EU countries on its target list as the story below highlights.

NGOs would be wise to monitor the situation closely. Any indicator of negative reactions to the new cartoon should be taken seriously and any necessary risk reduction and mitigation measures implemented.

Afghanistan Maps

If you need a little cartographic assistance to help you make sense of Afghanistan, Somalia, or world wide opium production, you should check out the Senlis Council’s map page. The maps also make great orientation graphics for senior level decision makers, VIP visitors, and others with short attention spans.

Vacancy - Country Security Manager - Afghanistan

CESVI has a nine month position for a Country Security Manager in Afghanistan. Applicants should have at least six years NGO security experience in conflict or post-conflict environments. A working knowledge of Italian is desirable.

The person will operate as primary point of contact for all security issues
Activities planning
Maintain awareness of the security environment at all CESVI Afghanistan offices
Specify, implement and enforce security procedures
Review physical security guidelines, protocols, and emergency plans on an ongoing basis and updates them where necessary
Provide detailed analysis and recommendations for security and travel for any event or program activity held in Afghanistan
Provide routine and emergency security updates to Country Representative and CESVI staff
Develop a network of professional security contacts and local actors
Maintain a relationship with ANSO and other security-related offices (UN, military, private security companies, etc.)
Provide on-going security training and refresher courses on all aspects of security protocols

If you are interested send your CV to recruiting@cesvi.org and indicate that you are interested in position "41/2007 CSM AFGH".

Vacancy - ANSO Regional Safety Advisor - Afghanistan

ANSO is looking for a Regional Safety Advisor for Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

The Taliban and Propaganda of the Deed

The Insurgency Research Group has an excellent analysis of the significance of the Taliban attack on Sunday's Afghan National Day parade. The whole post is worth reading but don't do it yet. Read the following paragraph first and then watch the No Comment TV video.

The incident on Sunday demonstrates a classic propaganda of the deed partnership in which the insurgents with growing skill select a media-significant target and with witless incomprehension international reporters beam the most sensationally damning images of the event around the world so as to deliver the worst possible interpretation. There is no need for a Taliban subtext or even a photo caption, the images speak powerfully for themselves sending messages of a stricken regime put to flight in their gilded uniforms by the daring fighters of the Taliban.

OK. Now go ahead and read the whole post.

Vacancy - Regional Safety and Security Advisor ANSO - Afghanistan

ANSO a project to support security awareness and security management capability amongst Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan is seeking a regional safety and security advisor. The incumbent will be responsible for managing a regional office and supervising up to ten national staff. ReliefWeb has more details.

Candidates should send a covering letter and Curriculum Vitae with the reference code “AFG 3408” to Thomas Gies at recruitment.gies[at]dwhh[dot]de .

Afghanistan Non-Government Organization Safety Office Quarterly Data Report

ANSO has released it's quarterly data report titled "Afghanistan Non-Government Organization Safety Office Quarterly Data Report (January 1st 2008 - March 31st 2008)".


NGOs have been directly targeted for attack on 29 occasions in the first quarter of this year with 16 of those attacks associated to Armed Opposition Groups (AOG) and 13 to criminals. Although comparable to last years figures in volume (30), the attacks of this year have resulted in many more fatalities indicating an escalation in the seriousness of attacks on NGO. This assessment is demonstrated in the fact that NGO incidents attributed to AOG have doubled from in first quarter of 2007 to 16 in the same period this year. The NGO incidents include, amongst others, seven AOG armed attacks which between them resulted in nine fatalities, nine injuries and near total destruction of two NGO compounds; seven armed abductions accounting for 12 persons kidnapped and an additional two fatalities including a female US citizen; and ten serious armed robberies accounting for one additional NGO staff injury and a long list of losses and damages to property. These figures are all higher than last year by a significant margin.

You can download the full .pdf report here.

KinderBerg Afghanistan Suspends Operations After Staff Kidnapped

German KinderBerg has reportedly suspended operations for five days after the apparent kidnapping of two staff members near Charikar the capital of Parwan province. The area had previously been considered relatively safe.

Vacancy - Security Coordinator - Afghanistan

International Medical Corps is looking for a security coordinator with 5 years of field security experience in hostile environments and 1 to 3 years in Afghanistan. Prior experience working with an NGO and Advanced First Aid training are also required.

Darfur, Afghanistan, Beer, and Breakfast

Google Trends can be a useful tool for context analysis. If you've ever wondered why your security budget is dwindling despite the rise in security incidents or why the head office seems to have forgotten you it can be a pretty useful tool.

For those who haven't seen it before Google Trends compares the relative Google search frequency of up to five user specified terms. For example if you want to compare relative search interest in various hot beverages you might enter "coffee, tea, cocoa" and press search. Google Trends returns a nice neat chart that shows how many searches were made for each term over time. It also shows a "news reference volume" chart, or in other words the frequency with which the term has shown up in the media.

Relative frequency of search terms Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo and Sweden

The chart above was generated when I compared relative interest in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Congo, with Sweden as a control.
The results were pretty interesting. Searches for Iraq seem to correspond with increases in media coverage. No surprises there. The big surprise for me was Sweden. Google user are more interested in Sweden than they are in Darfur, Afghanistan, and the Congo. Talk about forgotten conflicts!

Flag B is interesting. It marks George Bush's call for more NATO troops in Afghanistan and clearly shows an increase in media coverage of Afghanistan. It even overtook coverage of Iraq for a short while. However, the general public took no notice.

Headlines associated with country comparison

Relative search frequency by region

The regions chart is enlightening. Americans are predominantly interested in Iraq and seem to have forgotten about Afghanistan. The Canadians, who have troops in Afghanistan but not Iraq seem equally interested in both countries. And finally, the Swedes seem to be totally obsessed with Sweden.


Not without trepidation replaced Sweden with "beer" in my search terms. I shouldn't have. I now know that your average computer using westerner is more interested in beer than they are in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. "Darfur?... never heard of it... do they have good beer?"

If you are feeling particularly masochistic try breakfast or worse boobs. For a brief while in 2004 your average Google user was more interested in what was happening in Iraq than what they were going to have for breakfast. That aberration hasn't repeated itself since. Its also interesting to note that while American's seem equally fascinated by Iraq and breasts, Canadians have a distinct preference for the later.

Vacancy - Country Security Manager - Afghanistan

CESVI seeks a country security manager for its operations in Afghanistan. Prior experience working as a security manager in Afghanistan is highly desirable. English is essential with Italian being desirable as well.

Send your CV to recruiting@cesvi.org and specify position number 41/2007 CSM AFGH.

Private Security Companies and Local Populations: An Exploratory Study of Afghanistan and Angola

The Swiss Peace Foundation has released a new working paper titled "Private Security Companies and Local Populations: An Exploratory Study of Afghanistan and Angola". Issues surrounding Private Security Companies (PSC's) and NGO security are a hot topic these days. This paper may give you insight as to what your beneficiaries may think about PSC's. The attitudes of your beneficiaries have a direct impact on your organization's acceptance.

Vacancies - NGO Security Positions - Afghanistan and Kenya

Christian Children's Fund is looking to fill a security officer position based in Taloqan, Afghanistan. Fluency in spoken and written English, Dari and Pashto is required.

CARE International is seeking an NGO security intern to work in the Africa Security Office. It should be a great opportunity for someone seeking to enter the NGO security field.

The Globe and Mail "Talking to the Taliban"

"Talking to the Taliban" is a unique look at the attitudes and motivations of the 'average' rank and file Taliban fighter. This six part video series is based on standardized interviews of 42 Taliban insurgents conducted in five districts of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Topics of discussion ranged from their motivations for fighting, their world view, relations with Pakistan and their views on suicide bombing. This is a view of the Taliban that is stripped of the myth, mystique and misunderstanding.

globeandmail.com: Talking to the Taliban

Vacancy - Security Advisor for InterNews - Afghanistan

Internews, a USAID funded media development INGO, is seeking a security advisor for its program activities in Afghanistan. It looks like an interesting position for someone looking to broaden their NGO security experience.

If you are interested and meet the criteria forward a cover letter and resume to 876-in (at) internews (dot) org, placing “Security Advisor-AF-rw” in the subject line.

Vacancy - Director ANSO - Afghanistan

Welthungerhilfe is still seeking a candidate to fill the position of Director of the Afghan NGO Security Organization.

Minimum Requirements:
- Masters Degree in Social Sciences, International Development, International Relations, Political or Security studies or similarly related field
- Solid background in NGO senior management (min 1 year at deputy/director level)
- Solid donor/contract management experience (ECHO plus others) including proposal writing, reporting, modifications and budgeting
- Strong understanding of donor policy environment
- Minimum 12 months in Afghanistan and demonstrable familiarity with the setting
- Minimum 5 years in post conflict/emergency environments
- Strong international and national staff management experience
- Exemplary command of English language

- Experience in an inter-agency coordination role
- Solid understanding of NGO safety and security priorities and practices
- Experience in a high profile, public role
- Solid public speaking and presentation skills
- Excellent diplomacy and liaison skills
- Exemplary organization and prioritization skills

If you are interested send a covering letter and Curriculum Vitae to Thomas Gies.

For more detail on the postion go to the original ReliefWeb Post.

Vacancy - Security Coordinator IMC - Afghanistan

International Medical Corps is seeking a Security Coordinator for Afghanistan. Along with the usual security officer skills they are looking for someone with one to three years experience in Afghanistan.

ReliefWeb has more details here.

Disarming Afghans

This short AlJazeera piece outlines largely unsuccessful disarmament efforts in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, any disarmament effort is likely to fail as long as average Afghans feel that the government cannot provide effective security for their families and communities.

Kidnapped Aid Workers Reportedly Killed in Afghanistan

Aid workers Cyd Mizell and Muhammad Hadi have apparently been killed in Afghanistan according to this statement by Asian Rural Life Development Foundation. The pair had been kidnapped by armed men in Kandahar while they travelled to work in the morning.

Our prayers are with the families and friends of Hadi and Cyd.

Jobs - Afghanistan and Sri Lanka

Welthungerhilfe is looking for someone to fill the position of Head of Project for the Afghan NGO Security Organization. The Head successful candidate will have overall responsibility for the project including five Regional Safety Officers and an Operations Coordinator. You will also be responsible for advancing the ANSO project, preparing new project stages and securing the required funding. In your capacity as Head of Project, you will act as the national contact person on safety issues or as a security consultant for all NGOs operating in Afghanistan.

CARE International is still looking for a Staff and Program Security Advisor for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is currently entering a critical phase of its civil conflict therefore the successful candidate will be required to have strong analytical, diplomatic, and cross cultural communications skills. Regular travel to volatile and dangerous conflict areas will also be required.

Family Statement Regarding Cyd Mizell, Aid Worker Held in Afghanistan

Cyd Mizell's father asks for his daughters safe return in this video statement.

If your connection is too slow for the video you can read the text of the statement below.

SEATTLE, Feb. 3 /CNW/ -- The family of Cyd Mizell, an American aid worker currently being held in Afghanistan, today released the following statementfrom her father, George Mizell: "I am Cydney's father. My family and I want to thank all those who have shown their deep concern for the safety and well being of my daughter, Cydney Mizell, and Muhammad Hadi. I am indebted to the Afghan people for their support of Cydney and Muhammad. "My family and I love Cyd very much. I'm confused why my daughter would be taken because she's a gentle, caring and respectful person. "When we talk to Cyd, she tells us about the friends she's made and the kindness that's been shown to her and her desire to help them. "To those people who are holding our daughter, please let Cyd come home. Each day that passes without knowing about Cyd is difficult for our family andfriends. "We ask that you work with us so Cyd can come home. Cyd knows how to contact us and her co-workers. All of us are waiting to hear from you."

For further information: Bill Curry, spokesman for the Mizell family, +1-206-697-3684 Web Site: http://www.onlinefilefolder.com

Christina Lamb - Flak Jackets and Suicide Attacks

Christina Lamb is interesting in her own right but that's not why I think you should watch this video. Its worth watching it just for her short description of what it is like to be in a survivor of suicide attack. I firmly believe in visualization as a tool for preparing people for traumatic events. Gaining insight from people who have been through the experience helps do this but you need to concentrate on the emotions and feeling of the event. She also talks about trusting your instincts when working in dangerous areas.

Of course Christina has lots of other interesting insights as well so if, like me, you are a spending a lazy Saturday recouping from a hectic week grab yourself a coffee and watch the whole thing.

Afghan Security Tight After American Kidnapped

Cyd Mizell, an aid worker with the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, and her driver, Abdul Hadi, were reportedly kidnapped in Kandahar on 26 January. This short AP video has a plea from her organization for her quick release.

According to relief web hundreds of Afghan women in Kandahar demonstrated to protest the kidnapping and demand her safe release.

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