Thursday, May 31, 2007

AFGHANISTAN: UN to track civilian casualties more closely

In its sixth year, the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced that it was setting up a database to track civilian casualties more closely. This bold move no doubt follows the spate of high-profile reports of civilians being killed in botched attacks and crossfire, attributed to either ISAF or US-led Coalition forces. As the UN Human Rights expert in Afghanistan is quoted as saying: '"Unfortunately, civilian casualties are unavoidable in conflicts," said Diaz.'

In an IHT article entitled 'Losing the 'other war' in Afghanistan', focuses on the rising civilian death toll in Afghanistan as being a key issue undermining the Afghan and international effort. The metrics they put on the issues gives an understanding of why the problem is so important - and also accepting that this is at best a partial view:

'Since March there have been at least six incidents in which Western troops, mainly those under American command, have been accused of killing Afghan civilians, with more than 135 deaths reported and many more wounded. According to Red Cross, bombing by U.S. forces in western Afghanistan last month destroyed or badly damaged some 170 houses and left almost 2,000 people in four villages homeless.'

For what it's worth, it is sadly not a new problem. 'Karzai has told U.S. and NATO commanders that the patience of the Afghan people is wearing thin. He said civilian deaths and aggressive, arbitrary searches of people's houses have reached an unacceptable level, adding "Afghans cannot put up with it any longer..."' The behavior foreign forces has been a chronic criticism since 2001, surprising that it is only reaching the public consciousness at this point.

A hats off to abu muqawama, who caught a great paragraph in a Washington Post article that shows the Taliban may share some of the same concerns:

'On Tuesday, Taliban leader Mullah Omar said on the group's Web site that the militant group is "concerned" about civilian casualties. Omar called for an independent body to investigate them, saying the group should be guaranteed safe passage from Taliban fighters and from U.S. and NATO troops.'