On Friday, Afghan police officers discovered the bodies of 10 medical aid workers who were killed in the northern Badakhshan Province. Six were American. The Taliban has proudly claimed responsibility for this despicable act of wanton violence.
These men and women were in the region to deliver free medical care to impoverished Afghan villagers, according to the NGO they were working with. They were doctors, nurses, and medical technicians, and their mission was humanitarian and wholly independent from that of any government. Before their deaths, they had spent several days treating cataracts and other eye conditions in the Nuristan Province. At their next stop, they planned to run a dental clinic and offer maternal and infant health care. They were unarmed. They were not being paid for their services. They had traveled to this distant part of the world because they wanted to help people in need. They were guests of the Afghan people.
The Taliban stopped them on a remote road on their journey from Nuristan, led them into a forest, robbed them, and killed them.
We are heartbroken by the loss of these heroic, generous people. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless act. We also condemn the Taliban’s transparent attempt to justify the unjustifiable by making false accusations about their activities in Afghanistan.
Terror has no religion, and these acts are rejected by people all over the world, including by Muslims here in the United States. The Taliban’s cruelty is well-documented. Its members have assassinated tribal elders and thrown acid in the face of young girls. Earlier this summer, they accused a 7-year-old boy of spying and hung him. With these killings, they have shown us yet another example of the lengths to which they will go to advance their twisted ideology.
The murdered medical aid workers, as well as the volunteers from many nations and the international coalition working to establish stability in Afghanistan, represent exactly what the Taliban stands against: a future of peace, freedom, opportunity, and openness, where all Afghans can live and work together in harmony, free from terror.
That is what we are working to achieve in Afghanistan, in partnership with the Afghan people. As we mourn the loss of these aid workers, we will continue with our own efforts, inspired by their example.