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Public Statements

Recent Killings of Humanitarian Workers in Afghanistan

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. PITTS. Madam Speaker, I am profoundly saddened by the recent killings of humanitarian workers in Afghanistan on August 5, 2010.

* We've seen many acts of terror by the Taliban, starting in the 1990s with public executions in soccer stadiums, brutal attacks against girls attending school, attacks against Afghans who did not live exactly as the Taliban dictated, and many other terrible actions. These terrorists have now escalated their brutality by burning down schools, engaging in suicide attacks, attacking civilians, and attacking humanitarian aid workers.

* Many knew the lifelong service of Tom Little and Dan Terry, the two men heading the unarmed delegation of mostly medical workers returning from their humanitarian work in Northeastern Afghanistan. These two men were deeply dedicated to serving the health needs of Afghans, particularly those in remote areas, who had no access to medical care. These two men made their lives in Afghanistan, raised their families there, spoke local languages fluently, and knew the local culture. These two men, and the other members of this brutally murdered delegation, were committed humanitarian workers.

* Many Afghans and non-Afghans who have known their work for years and have interacted with members of the delegation have come forward to talk of their passion for helping the Afghan people.

* From my district, in Lancaster, PA, Glen Lapp came to Afghanistan in 2008 for a short-term assignment, but decided to remain, leaving his life in Pennsylvania behind, in order to serve as manager of a much-needed provincial eye care program in Afghanistan. Glen wrote that his hope was to ``continue to help this country work towards peace on many different social, ethnic, and economic levels.''

* Sadly, there have been accusations by some against this delegation regarding their humanitarian work. And, unfortunately, the Taliban's false accusations against them have been repeated by some who clearly do not know the facts. It is important for the world to note that the organization that sponsored these humanitarians signed the ``Principles of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent for NGOs and Disaster Response Programmes'' which states that ``aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.''

* It is deeply disturbing when a horrific attack against humanitarian workers, such as this one, is used for propaganda purposes by the Taliban and is then reinforced by some of their apologists.

* Afghanistan's precarious stability means aid workers have played a vital role in serving the Afghan public over the last three decades. While in the past many aid workers were able to assist the Afghans and were given safe passage in conflict areas, sadly, in recent months, the Taliban have escalated their brutality by breaking this long-standing custom and resorting to targeting even those that are conducting humanitarian assistance programs.

* It's obvious that the Taliban in Afghanistan are not only against progress for the Afghan people, but have also decided to attack anyone assisting the Afghans in achieving progress and bettering their lives, whether that be related to medical issues, education (especially for girls), the economy, or even Afghans expressing their culture, such as kite-flying competitions.

* In light of this violent attack, there must be a joint investigation with the Afghan authorities so that those who perpetrated this horrific execution of innocent aid workers are brought to justice, no matter where they might be hiding or receiving sanctuary. From various reports, there are strong indications that the attackers were not local and some were speaking non-Afghan languages.

* Given the location of the attack, the proximity to Taliban strongholds in Nuristan, a province that borders volatile areas of Pakistan, and given the cross border nature of the Afghan insurgency, I strongly urge the government of Pakistan to do its utmost to cooperate in rooting out extremism on its soil, in particular the safe havens that exist on the Pakistani side that have been the source of many acts of violence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The safe havens for the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani network must end. And, the U.S. government must finally add the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, and the Haqqani Network to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list. This attack, which has been called by some observers ``the worst attack on humanitarian aid workers in three decades of conflict in Afghanistan,'' as coupled with numerous other horrific acts of terror perpetrated by these groups against Afghan and American civilians and military personnel, warrant the addition of these groups to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

* In addressing the wider context of these brutal attacks against humanitarians, we must not forget the tragic impact on the families of those killed. I would like to thank Tom Little, Dan Terry, Glen Lapp, Thomas Grams, Cheryl Beckett, Brian Carderelli, Karen Woo, Daniela Beyer, Mahram Ali, and Ahmed Jawed and their families, as well as all the other aid workers in Afghanistan who have been so committed to serving the Afghan people.

* My thoughts and prayers are with the families of these heroes and quiet leaders, as well as with the Afghan people who have suffered so many decades of conflict and loss.

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