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Aid agencies reviewed the viability of their presence in Afghanistan following the October drive-by murder of Christian aid worker Gayle Williams.

Taliban members said they killed Williams because she was spreading Christianity. But SERVE Afghanistan said she was following the organization's policy against proselytizing. Observers say that as a Western woman, Williams may have simply been an identifiable target.

The attack in the heart of Kabul added to the sense of insecurity foreign aid workers in Afghanistan already felt due to escalations in violence by insurgent groups.

"It's very difficult—I mean, how do you stop somebody riding in on a motorcycle?" said Mike Lyth, chairman of serve Afghanistan. He believes aid agencies will have to reconsider their presence in the country.

Speaking at a news conference, Humayun Hamidzada, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, issued a warning to international aid workers in Kabul.

"The international workers based in Kabul … should get in touch with the relevant police departments, review their security measures, and make sure they take necessary precautions while they commute," Hamidzada said.

A 2008 UN report stated that there were more than 120 attacks targeting aid workers in the first seven months of 2008 alone. These attacks saw 92 abducted and 30 killed.

"[In October] I was talking to one agency that has decided to postpone their work in the country in response to the attacks," said Karl Torring of the European Network of NGOs in Afghanistan. Other agencies he represents, however, are not so quick to make a decision.

"So people say, 'Well, we are committed to the Afghans, but how many lives is it worth in terms of foreigners and Afghan staff as well?'" said Lyth.

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In the Magazine

January 2009

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