No matter what happens, all parties in a conflict must adhere to certain rules, norms and international humanitarian law, and attacking healthcare workers is a cardinal sin. In Afghanistan, a recent report of the United Nations (UN) informs us that neither the Taliban nor the government has abided by humanitarian law since both parties targeted healthcare personnel twelve times in just a little over two months, from March 11 to May 23.

Targeting healthcare workers in a country like Afghanistan is beyond comprehension. When the fight between the government forces and the Taliban has already made the lives of ordinary Afghan people miserable and intolerable, gunning down medical staff worsens the situation. In stark abrogation of the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war, the attacks on healthcare workers and health facilities have reached unprecedented levels in Afghanistan in recent years.

Deliberate and systematic targeting of healthcare facilities and health workers — the “weaponisation” of healthcare — is a strategy employed by both the government and the insurgents to undermine medical operations in the war-torn country. Not only has this policy resulted in large-scale loss of life; it has also sparked an exodus of health workers. Afghanistan cannot afford the closure of medical operations right in the middle of its battle with COVID-19. Both parties must think of the Afghan people before looking to secure narrow interests that both of them want to achieve by such attacks.

On the one hand, targeting medical workers constitutes war crimes. On the other, these acts also violate the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2286, which urges all parties in armed conflict to comply with international law. The precarious situation in Afghanistan demands intervention from the world outside, though not a military one. The United States (US) and other states must ask both sides to stop attacking civilians, let alone medical workers and establishments.