Stationed in the Afghan capital of Kabul since 2015, retired army officer with 36 years’ experience with the Defence Forces, Sean Ridge, is currently the Head of CASU (Civil Military Coordination, Humanitarian Access and Security) with the UN.
As the Irish Army’s Ranger Wing embarks on an evacuation mission to Afghanistan this week, the Ballygar man told the Roscommon People that the country was already facing a “humanitarian catastrophe” prior to the arrival of the Taliban in the capital almost two weeks ago.
“This past week has been about total fire-fighting including the evacuation of non-critical UN and NGO staff as well as providing safe haven for others. Also, (we are) working so we can provide basic, health, food and water to the 20 million or so affected population, deciding who stays or goes on the international front, and working with donor countries to keep the money flowing as well as opening lines of communication with all parties,” he said.
Sean, who hails from Portumna but has lived in Ballygar for the last forty years, says that since 2018, his role has morphed into lead focal point with the Taliban on behalf of humanitarian agencies.
He adds that since coming to power following the withdrawal of US forces and a transition of power after the departure of President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban have offered assurances regarding the safety of UN and NGO personnel.
“The Taliban have issued statements assuring the safety and security of UN and NGO personnel. Most organisations including the UN have evacuated their non-critical staff and those deemed critical are here to stay and deliver,” he said.
“As we speak, we are witnessing hyper-inflation – before the current crisis, more than 20 million people were living on less than a dollar a day. The key issues are the formation of a Government to stabilise security and the economy…if not then the country is heading for catastrophe”.
Sean wished to assure loved ones that he is safe in the war-torn country and that he is grateful for the support he has received, both from back home and from former military colleagues.
“I would like to wish my family: Helen, Donna, Declan, Ella, Robyn, Peter, Emma, Karen and Amy, and my family in Portumna the very best and thank them for the unstinting support and good wishes they send constantly.
“I would also like to thank my former and serving military colleagues who have been in regular contact and of course my many friends and neigbours in Ballygar and Portumna. I would like to reassure everyone that we are safe and sound and coping well and will see them all when things stabilise a bit,” he concluded.