Some aid groups decry U.S. military’s Georgia efforts
August 29, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. — Some aid agencies are decrying the U.S. military’s role delivering relief supplies to Georgia as a "militarization" of the humanitarian assistance mission, according to The Baltimore Sun.
But Brig. Gen. Jon Miller, who is in charge of U.S. relief efforts in Georgia, said he has not heard any such objections from the nongovernmental organizations with which he has been working.
"They recognize that our partnership is essential to success," said Miller, deputy commander of 21st Theater Sustainment Command, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany; and commander of 7th Army Reserve Command in Heidelberg, Germany.
The U.S. military has delivered several hundred short tons of food, medical supplies and other needed items to Georgia since Aug. 13.
Anne C. Richard, a representative from the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental organization based in New York, told the Sun that the military’s role in the relief efforts was putting aid workers at risk.
The group is part of a coalition that objects to the military heading the relief effort in Georgia, Richard told Stripes on Thursday.
"I understand how to an officer that getting troops involved in humanitarian relief can boost morale, it’s good for team-building exercises and also for building links to local communities, but from our perspective, using the military to do that is expensive and sometimes troops have not been trained for this type of work, and of most concern is it can be dangerous to us if it ends up confusing the local populace on who is an aid worker and who is an armed soldier," she said.
Richard said other options are available for delivering relief supplies, such as using private firms or the United Nations World Food Program.
But Miller told Stripes that the military has an essential role in delivering relief supplies to Georgia.
"We are saving lives, and it is only the American Department of Defense that can do it so quickly and with such large volume. There is no other solution," Miller said in a phone interview.
Miller said the U.S. military is sensitive to nongovernmental organizations’ concerns, noting that servicemembers do not participate in certain meetings or working groups with such organizations.
"We respect their need to be neutral and we’re very, very sensitive to that and would not have it any other way," he said.
Miller chafed at the notion that relief efforts in Georgia were being militarized.
"Our goal is to meet the needs of the Georgian people and to accomplish this humanitarian assistance mission, and for me it’s frustrating that people quibble around the edges on how human suffering is relieved," he said.