Casualties – civilian
US troops accused of cover-up over women’s killings, Richard Oppel, The Age, 6 April 2010
After initially denying responsibility for the deaths, NATO commanders have now confirmed that their troops killed two pregnant women and another female villager in the botched raid on February 12. In a potentially scandalous turn, The Times in London has reported findings by Afghan investigators that US forces not only killed the women but ”dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then ”washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened”.
The disclosures could not come at a worse time for the US military, as it struggles to contain fallout from a series of tirades against the foreign military presence by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has also railed against the killing of civilians by Western forces. In its statement yesterday, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted that ”international forces” were responsible for the deaths of the women as well.
Afghan man dies following vehicle incident, Media Release, Department of Defence, 9 February 2010
A Defence inquiry has concluded its review into an incident involving an Afghan man and an Australian Protected Mobility Vehicle (PMV) on 17 October 2009. The inquiry found that the cause of the incident and injury to the Afghan male was because he deliberately moved from the side of the road, and laid down between the front and rear wheels of the PMV, which ran over him.
The vehicle was travelling slowly but witnesses stated there was no time for anyone to react to the man’s actions. The inquiry found that the driver or crew commander could not have anticipated the actions of the Afghan man.
Inquiry Findings into 2007 Incidents In Afghanistan, Media Release, Department of Defence, 12 May 2008
‘Defence today released the findings of inquiries into the combat deaths of three Australian soldiers last year, and a separate but related investigation into civilian deaths and allegations of mistreatment of a detainee.
The fourth inquiry investigated civilian casualties and an allegation of detainee mistreatment by Australian troops during the 23 November incident in which Private Worsley was killed.
The investigating officer found that two non-combatants were killed as a result of Taliban extremists engaging an Australian Special Operations force from within a compound the extremists knew to be occupied by civilians. The investigating officer also found that at least two other non-combatants were wounded in the engagement.
“We utilised every resource available, including review of operational reports, collection of statements, liaison with our ISAF partners, and an interview with the Afghan village elder making the claims, to ensure that these inquiries had access to all available information,” Lieutenant General Gillespie said. “There is no evidence that the Australian troops breached their rules of engagement on 23 November, 2007.’
IO Report into Collateral Damage and Allegations of Mistreatment of a Local National in Afghanistan on 23 Nov 07, Department of Defence, 12 May 2008 [2.40MB, PDF]
One ISAF soldier, three civilians killed in southern Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force, Press release, 23 November 2007.
“’At this time we simply do not know, how the civilians died. However, we do know that the insurgents fired upon ISAF soldiers from the compound in which the Afghan civilians (two women and one child) were found after the fight. ISAF makes all effort to prevent losses of innocent civilian lives.’”
Update – Attack on Bomb-Making Compound, Media release, Department of Defence, 24 November 2007.
“Although the cause of these deaths has not been established, ADF Spokesman Andrew Nikoli? said that the attack successfully targeted Taliban operations in Oruzgan Province. ’The attack by the SOTG was based on clear intelligence over a period of time, about the bomb-making activities being conducted at that location. This raid will have degraded the Taliban’s capacity to produce bombs for use in Oruzgan Province, which constitute one of the biggest threats to our people and Afghan civilians. The three civilians that died at some stage during the attack were in close proximity to heavy, close-quarter fighting between members of the SOTG and the Taliban. At this stage we do not know if they were in any way linked to the Taliban extremists at the compound, but any loss of innocent civilian life is regrettable. It is not possible to say whether their death resulted from ADF or Taliban fire, but it is clear that the Taliban’s well-established tactic of using civilian shields to conduct their operations puts innocent lives at risk. This is a deplorable feature of the Taliban’s use of civilian areas.’”
Strike reverberates beyond Afghanistan, Charles Fromm, Asia Times Online, 24 February 2010
Though McChrystal’s policy is thought to be responsible for a downturn in the number of civilian casualties, it is not clear that this has translated into meaningful improvements for everyday Afghans. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the number of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces dropped by a third last year. However, the number of people killed by the Taliban and other militants rose by about 40%. The result is that the number of civilian deaths has increased 15% since last year, according to UNAMA.
In another effort to mitigate popular backlash surrounding these deadly attacks, a compensation system for death, injury or damage resulting from coalition operations was devised. According to the Associated Press, the death of a child or adult is worth US$1,500 to $2,500, loss of limb and other injuries $600 to $1,500, a damaged or destroyed vehicle $500 to $2,500, and damage to a farmer’s fields $50 to $250.
No more night terrors, Erica Gaston, Foreign Policy, 23 February 2010
An airstrike in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, yesterday is estimated to have killed as many as 27 civilians. The news of this airstrike has yet again stoked questions of whether a counterinsurgency strategy can be effectively carried out in Afghanistan, and if not, what the overall prospects of success in Afghanistan really are. Reducing airstrikes is key: these are the most visible and publicly inflammatory tactics that international forces use.
The most serious outstanding example of this is the continued reliance on night raids, which my organization, the Open Society Institute, explores in a recently released report. Night raids are when military forces, usually a mixed group of internationals and Afghans, force entry into an Afghan home in the middle of the night, search the premises and usually detain one or more men of the family. Reports of abuse — punching, slapping, or other mistreatment — during these raids are frequent. According to the UN, at least 98 civilians were killed in these incidents in 2009.
Though night raids do not result in as many deaths as airstrikes, they can be as lethal to public opinion, if not more so. In terms of creating enemies, it’s hard to do worse than breaking into someone’s house at night, taking actions that are viewed as violating the women of the household, and hauling family members to unknown detention sites for weeks to months.
I was recently speaking to a group of Afghan National Army commanders who had just been trained in new counterinsurgency strategy about the importance of protecting and respecting civilians. He told me I should save my lessons for international forces. “Just last week they raided my house and three members of my family were taken away,” he shouted, obviously enraged. “If they continue like this, soon I will become an insurgent rather than a counterinsurgent!”
Afghan war ‘kills three kids a day’, Lynne O’Donnell, The Age, 7 January 2010
Children are the biggest victims of the war in Afghanistan, with more than 1,050 people under 18 years old killed last year alone, according to an Afghan human rights watchdog.
Taliban-linked militants caused around 64 per cent of all violent child deaths last year, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) said in a report.
Children were also press-ganged, sexually exploited, deprived of health and education and illegally detained by all sides in a war that is dragging into its ninth year since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime.
Australian soldiers kill Afghan children, Dateline, Youtube, January 2010
Afghanistan – Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009,United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), January 2010 (PDF) (Website)
On 1 November, AGEs assassinated a prominent community elder from Dehrawood District, Uruzgan Province…
Langar villagers, accused of collaboration, threatened and killed by the Taliban
Following an international military forces operation in Langar area of Chinarto District [unofficial district within Chora district] of Uruzgan Province on 28 April, the Taliban accused the villagers of collaboration with the IM forces. The Taliban were, apparently, angry at the significant losses incurred in the operation. Consequently, they issued a number of verbal threats and reportedly drew up a list of 42 alleged collaborators, who were to be killed. Villagers were also warned that they were not authorized to use cell phones without the permission of the Taliban. Allegedly, several villagers were taken to the mountains and killed. On 11 May, the Taliban reportedly abducted four people from the area and accused them of spying; two were executed and the other two were severely beaten. On 20 May, an individual traveling from Tirin Kot to Chinarto was allegedly stopped by the Taliban and killed because he was carrying a cell phone. As a result of the violence and threats, a total of 60 families fled to Tirin Kot, where most remain displaced.
Tirin Kot Provincial Hospital searched by ISAF in Uruzgan Province
On 12 April, ISAF forces conducted a search operation in the Tirin Kot Hospital after receiving information that injured Taliban fighters were receiving treatment. In contrast with ISAF statements that only 4-5 people were involved in the search, UNAMA HR recorded that some 40 heavily armed soldiers, who arrived in at least five armoured vehicles, searched all the rooms and wards of the hospital. Although ISAF had stated that they had been invited to enter the hospital, UNAMA HR could not confirm this statement. UNAMA HR recorded complaints that the women’s ward was entered by male soldiers. Concern was also raised that the medical staff were not allowed to help even those patients who required emergency care and some patients were reportedly not allowed to enter the hospital during the search. As a result of the search, medical professionals working in the hospital felt that this made the hospital a much less safe place to work and would make it even harder to attract well-qualified medical staff.
A detailed breakdown on civilian deaths can be found in graph format Appendix II (pp. 27-32) of the report.
Commandos as scapegoats in Afghan killings, Sasha Uzunov, David Pugliese’s Defence Watch, 7 December 2009
The Australian Army’s elite reservist unit, 1 Commando Regiment, is being made a scapegoat over allegations of misconduct in Afghanistan, a former unit member says. The experienced ex-Commando said that he was deeply concerned over claims that poorly trained and led members had breached rules of engagement during a raid on a house in Afghanistan last February which resulted in the deaths of five Afghan children after grenades had been thrown.
“My concern is the unit has been left out to dry by the Defence Department even before judgment has been passed,” said the soldier who asked that his name not be made public.
Soldiers may be first to face charges for combat since Vietnam, Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 2009
A NIGHT-TIME raid in which five Afghan children were killed has cast a cloud over Australia’s elite forces and could result in combat-related charges against Australian soldiers for the first time since the Vietnam War. Two internal Defence Force investigations are understood to have raised concerns about whether the soldiers – reservists from the 1st Commando Regiment in Sydney – breached their rules of engagement. The incident took place in February less than two months after NATO issued a directive to international forces in Afghanistan that stipulated Afghan forces must lead all searches of homes and religious sites.
NATO revised its rules of engagement late last year amid growing concerns about civilian deaths.
The governor of Oruzgan province, where most of Australia’s 1500 troops are based, Assadullah Hamdam, has criticised the Australians for failing to take sufficient care during the February raid. On Monday night Defence revealed the incident had been referred to the Director of Military Prosecutions after two internal investigations that raised concerns about it. The prosecutor will decide whether to press charges before a court martial or a military magistrate.
ADF quizzes its own on Afghan civilian casualties, Joe Kelly, Australian, 6 July 2009
A child, a battle and a place with no name, Tom Hyland, Age, 5 July 2009
Five weeks ago, the Australian Defence Force released a report by an officer who inquired into whether Australians caused “unintended” civilian casualties in the fighting. The report shows Australian troops were not qualified for jobs they performed and fired mortars without orders. It reveals the army had not introduced new mortar firing procedures — despite an inquiry into an earlier civilian casualty recommending this be done. And it undermines promises by foreign forces to conduct prompt, joint and open inquiries into civilian casualties. Instead, it shows these inquiries are fragmented, multi-layered and opaque.
Diggers in firing line over Afghan civilian casualties, Tom Hyland, Age, 5 July 2009external-link
Diggers Under Fire, Dateline, SBS, 5 July 2009
Soldiers to carry cash to compensate for casualties, Cynthia Banham, Age, 2 July 2009
Report confirms civilian deaths, Craig Skehan, SMH, 13 December 2007
“Australian special forces used grenades to clear a mud-brick compound where it was later determined that two women and a child had died from “blast/ fragmentation” injuries, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has found.”
Defence Silent on Civilian Deaths, Craig Skehan and Ash Sweeting, SMH, 1 December 2007
“The Australian Defence Force has refused to provide any details about the killing of two women and a child during a special forces attack on a compound in Afghanistan last week, but the international coalition is conducting its own investigation.”
Afghan civilians suffer in battle for their security, Tom Hyland, Age, 15 November 2007
“Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes to escape the fighting in southern Afghanistan, where Australian and Dutch forces are claiming early success in what has been Australia’s most costly operation in the conflict. The risk to civilians was highlighted by Friday’s clash that claimed the life of Private Luke Worsley, the third Australian be killed in Afghanistan since last month. Three civilians – two women and a child – also were killed when Australian troops attacked what the Australian Defence Force said was a Taliban bomb-making compound.”
Afghanistan: Conflict-affected displacement “major” humanitarian challenge – Afghan Red Crescent, IRIN, 20 November 2007.
Afghanistan, War Victims Monitor, CIVIC.
ISAF, War Victims Monitor, CIVIC
Civilian Casualty Data, Afghanistan Conflict Monitor.
Afghan Archives – Civilian Casualties, War Report
Listing of incidents.
- Source: Losing The Afghan-Pakistan War? The Rising Threat, Anthony H. Cordesman, CSIS, 14 September 2008.
UN says civilian deaths in Afghan war soaring; up 40 per cent so for in 2008, Canadian Press, 16 September 2008.
The United Nations says the number of Afghan civilians killed in insurgent attacks and air strikes by foreign troops has risen almost 40 per cent this year. The UN says the Taliban has been responsible for 800 or some 55 per cent of the 1,445 Afghan civilian deaths reported through the end of August. U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are responsible for the other 645 civilian deaths, or 45 per cent. The UN says 395 of the civilian deaths caused by pro-government forces – about 60 per cent – have occurred in U.S. and NATO air strikes. A total of 1,040 Afghan civilians died in the same eight-month period last year. According to the UN statement, 330 civilians died in August alone, including about 92 killed in a U.S.-led raid on the village of Azizabad.
“This is the highest number of civilian deaths to occur in a single month since the end of major hostilities and the ousting of the Taliban regime at the end of 2001,” UN human rights chief Navi Pallay said in a statement. There is substantial evidence indicating that the Taliban are carrying out a systematic campaign of intimidation and violence aimed at Afghan civilians they believe to be supportive of the government, the international community and military forces,” Pillay said.
Carnage from the Air and the Washington Consensus, Tom Engelhardt, Tomgram.com, 9 July 2007
“Recently, however, in Afghanistan, such isolated incidents from U.S. or NATO (often still U.S.) air attacks have been occurring in startling numbers. They have, in fact, become so commonplace that, in the news, they begin to blur into what looks, more and more, like a single, ongoing airborne slaughter of civilians. Protest over the killings of noncombatants from the air, itself a modest story, is on the rise. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, dubbed ‘the mayor of Kabul,’ has bitterly and repeatedly complained about NATO and U.S. bombing policies. ACBAR, an umbrella organization for Afghan and international relief and human rights organizations, has received attention for claiming that marginally more civilians have died this year at the hands of the Western powers than the Taliban; and, most recently, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has made a ‘”strong” appeal to military commanders in Afghanistan to avoid civilian casualties.’”
“But first things first. Let’s start with a partial list of recently reported air power ‘incidents’ (dates approximate), all of which resulted in significant civilian casualties: …..”
Errant Afghan civilian deaths surge: U.S. and NATO troops killed more noncombatants in the last six months than did Taliban insurgents, several tallies indicate, Laura King, Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2007
“After more than five years of increasingly intense warfare, the conflict in Afghanistan reached a grim milestone in the first half of this year: U.S. troops and their NATO allies killed more civilians than insurgents did, according to several independent tallies. The upsurge in deaths at the hands of Western forces has been driven by Taliban tactics as well as by actions of the American military and its allies. But the growing toll is causing widespread disillusionment among the Afghan people, eroding support for the government of President Hamid Karzai and exacerbating political rifts among NATO allies about the nature and goals of the mission in Afghanistan.”
ACLU Releases Files on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, American Civil Liberties Union, 4 April 2007.
“The American Civil Liberties Union today made public hundreds of claims for damages by family members of civilians killed or injured by Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ACLU received the records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request it filed in June 2006. The hundreds of files provide a vivid snapshot, in significantly more detail than has previously been compiled and released, of the circumstances surrounding reports of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Civilian Deaths – The Human Cost of War, American Civil Liberties Union.
“In an effort to obtain more information about the human costs of war, the ACLU filed Freedom of Information Act requests with various components of the Defense Department. The documents searchable on this page were provided to the ACLU in response to those requests.”
The Human Cost – The Consequences of Insurgent Attacks in Afghanistan, International Crisis Group, April 2007.
Civilian Consequences of Suicide vs. ‘Precision’ Bombings in Afghanistan, Marc W. Herold, Cursor.org, 16 September 2006.
“While the U.S. military and the mainstream corporate media ceaselessly extol the surgical precision of new bomb technology, they equally condemn the random death and violence resulting from suicide car bombs. I analyze these claims on hand of data from the Afghan war theater and demonstrate that under plausible assumptions exactly the reverse is true: a U.S. precision bomb is far more deadly to Afghan civilians than a Taliban’s suicide car bomb when adjustment is made for the differing delivery cost of the two bombs. This essay forms part of the literature which stresses that the consequences of a technology cannot be divorced from the socio-cultural-economic contexts in which it gets used.”
Body counts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Marc W. Herold, September 2006
Herold’s “Afghan Cannon” page contains links to his numerous detailed studies of casualties of coalition operations, especially aerial bombing.
62,006 – The Number Killed in the “War on Terror”, David Randall and Emily Gosden, The Independent, 10 September 2006
Civilian casualties from anti-insurgency conflict mount, IRIN, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 14 July 2006
Following US bombing of a village near tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province “local people and rights groups in southern Afghanistan are increasingly concerned about what they say is an escalation in civilian deaths and injuries resulting from the growing insurgency in the region.”
Afghanistan: Legislator Assails Coalition On Civilian Casualties, Ron Synovitz, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 13, 2006
Disappearing the Dead: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Idea of a “New Warfare”, Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives, Research Monograph #9, February 2004
Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Updated: 8 April 2010