The Militarisation of Aid in Afghanistan: Implications for Humanitarian Actors and the Way Ahead

48 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2012

See all articles by Sam Beckwith

Sam Beckwith

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: April 30, 2012


Military and civilian actors, including humanitarian and development oriented NGOs, increasingly find themselves working in close proximity and with shared objectives within zones of conflict. This has resulted in growing integration of the two groups; cooperative frameworks have arisen and military actors have mainstreamed ‘humanitarian-like’ capabilities into their operations. Termed by some the ‘militarisation of aid’, this trend has been observed in conflicts across the past fifteen years, but is perhaps most visible in present day Afghanistan.

Cooperation between actors can seem logical in the face of insecurity, contested environments and shared objectives. However, existing cooperative frameworks are heavily influenced, in design and operation, by military actors. Engagement of humanitarian actors in these frameworks can open the door to their politicisation, erosion of traditional values and reduce their ability to access target populations. Similarly military adoption of aid as a strategic asset, to be employed in the pursuit of politico-military objectives, runs the risk of tainting the humanitarian enterprise as whole. Such action blurs the distinction between military and civilian actors and places NGOs and their intended beneficiaries in danger, legitimising both as targets for opposition groups.

This paper argues that it is imperative that humanitarians become more proactive in their engagement with these issues. Military actors must make better provision for the safeguarding of civilian agencies during the planning and implementation of their operations. They should also desist from the use of aid as a strategic tool, as in doing so they constrict humanitarian space and ultimately reduce the ability of all actors to serve those in need of assistance.

Keywords: militarisation, militarization, humanitarian, aid, development, international, Afganistan, NGO

Suggested Citation

Beckwith, Sam, The Militarisation of Aid in Afghanistan: Implications for Humanitarian Actors and the Way Ahead (April 30, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Sam Beckwith (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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