An alert reader sent me a UN press release and photos and interviews of injured Afghan civilians today. The links are at the right hand side of this page. Portion of the press release reads:
“The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) has called for a dramatic new response to civilian casualties and injuries in Afghanistan today after the United Nations (UN) reported a 24% increase in civilian casualties in the past six months. The causalities were caused by both Taliban insurgency and NATO-ISAF actions.
ICOS is calling on the International Community and NATO-ISAF, to immediately respond to the release of the UN report with a new three part policy response that aims to “Avoid, Aid and Compensate” civilian casualties and injuries.”
The detailed report goes on to say of the period 1 January 2009 through 30 June 2009 that “the armed conflict intensified significantlythroughout Afghanistan in 2008 and in the first six months of 2009, with a corresponding rise in civilian casualties and a significant
erosion of humanitarian space. UNAMA Human Rights recorded 1013 civilian casualties for the period 1 January to 30 June 2009. This represents a 24% increase in casualties from the same period in 2008 when 818 civilians died. Most of the deaths continued to occur in the
South, South East, East, West and Central regions of the country. According to UNAMA’s figures 595 (59%) of these deaths were caused by AGEs (Afghan guerrilla elements) and 310 (30.5%) by international and national Afghan forces (PGF). The remaining 108 (10.5%) could not be attributed to any ofthe parties to the conflict.”
I do have to question why ICOS didn’t call on the Taliban to respond to the release of the report with a three part policy as well. After all, the UN report did say that most of the casualties were caused by AGE actions, and the Taliban is the principle AGE.
My own experience in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 tells me that US forces make serious efforts to avoid causing civilian casualties and when we do, we are generally quick to offer medical aid and compensation. I am pretty sure that NATO and ISAF are taking similar precautions and measures as well. Still, if it’s your family member who is killed injured, our good intentions are likely small consolation.
Many experts believe that we will lose popular support for our efforts in Afghanistan amongst the locals, and thereby the war, because of civilians casualties and should be more careful, use less firepower, less air power. Still, this is a little like the “cap and trade” debate. Just as it matters little if the US caps green house gasses if the developing world doesn’t, it matters little if the Taliban, without air power and relatively little firepower, still continue to kill more of their own people (or at least other Aghans) than NATO and ISAF do.
Of course history tells us that local support, though nice, is not essential. There was precious little support for the Union Army in Georgia in 1864, but the United States won that war decisively, corralling Confederate states back into the Union and abolishing slavery. Likewise, after killing 800,000 German civilians with air power in World War II, Allied occupying forces were not greeted with flowers by the surviving German population, but they occupied with little if any violent resistance and saw that Germany was reborn as a flourishing democracy and a solid ally.
Still, like Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, I have a Christian soul that tells me the right thing to do is be careful with the lives of non-combatants. And as Luttrell’s own experience in Afghanistan shows, most Afghan people, like people everywhere, return kindness with kindness, even kindness towards Navy SEALs. (See link at right.)