Biden’s planned airdrop of food to Gaza is a ‘major policy failure’ says former USAID official

Biden’s planned airdrop of food to Gaza is a ‘major policy failure’ says former USAID official

The Independent reports:

Jeremy Konyndyk, who led USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance during the Obama administration and oversaw humanitarian air drops to Nepal, the Philippines and Iraq, described the potential US plan to drop aid by air as a “major policy failure” on the part of the Biden administration.

“When the US government has to use tactics that it otherwise used to circumvent the Soviets and Berlin and circumvent Isis in Syria and Iraq, that should prompt some really hard questions about the state of US policy,” he told The Independent.

The United Nations warned this week that some 576,000 people, or one quarter of Gaza’s population, are “one step away from famine.” It has also accused Israel of “systematically” blocking aid deliveries into Gaza and of opening fire on convoys that do make it through.

The US has repeatedly said it has been working behind the scenes to convince Israel to allow more aid into Gaza, but the amount of aid that has reached Gazans dropped by half in February compared to the previous month.

The dire conditions on the ground in Gaza were drawn into sharp relief on Wednesday when more than 100 Palestinians were killed after Israeli forces opened fire on a crowd that was scrambling to collect aid from food trucks near Gaza City. The Israeli army said its forces had “fired at those who posed a threat” after some civilians rushed towards the trucks.

Mr Konyndyk, who is now president of Refugees International, told The Independent that airdrops are “the most expensive and least effective way to get aid to a population. We almost never did it because it is such an in extremis tool.”

He referenced his experience managing US airdrops to Yazidi civilians who were fleeing attacks from Isis fighters on the top of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in 2014. At the same time it was dropping aid, the US was also carrying out airstrikes against Isis fighters who were besieging the Yazidis. [Continue reading…]

Al-Monitor reports:

Scott Paul, who leads humanitarian policy at Oxfam America, said the airdrops would deliver only a symbolic amount of aid while being deeply degrading to the population.

Airdrops “would mostly serve to relieve the guilty consciences of senior US officials whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and risk of famine in Gaza,” Paul said in a statement.

Airdrops are an expensive and inefficient means of aid delivery compared to road convoys and carry the risk of aid diversion. Humanitarian organizations consider them a tool of last resort to reach a population that is not accessible by land. [Continue reading…]

Politico reports:

For close watchers of the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has raged following the militants’ Oct. 7 attack, the move to drop aid from the skies signals Biden can’t persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do more for suffering Palestinians.

“We look 100 percent weak,” said Dave Harden, a former humanitarian assistance coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Administration officials are doing this just to make themselves feel better.”

The U.S. has many ways to influence Israeli actions, not least of which is to consider conditioning military aid for the country. Democrats in Congress have long suggested that Biden withhold new arms sales to Israel until Netanyahu addresses the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But Kirby, aware the U.S. is in talks with Israel on a new weapons delivery, on Friday reiterated the U.S. would continue to support Israel’s right to self-defense.

“To make matters even more baffling, we’re doing this while continuing to send weapons to the very military responsible for forcing us to conduct aid airdrops,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. [Continue reading…]

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