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    Afghan child deaths report unfounded: ISAF

    KABUL (PAN): NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Friday rejected as categorically unfounded a UN committee's concern about reports of the death of hundreds of children as a result of US military attacks and air strikes in Afghanistan over the past four years.

    The Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said the deaths were "due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force".

    The report also expressed concern that troops responsible for the killing of children had not always been held accountable and that family grievances had not been redressed.

    It said it was "alarmed at reports of the death of hundreds of children as a result of attacks and air strikes by the US military forces in Afghanistan over the reporting period".

    But ISAF, of which US forces are the majority, said that the committee's assertion was entirely false. ""In fact, ISAF reduced civilian casualties by 49 percent in 2012, compared with 2011, demonstrating that protecting Afghan people is the cornerstone of the ISAF mission," the statement said.   "More specifically, the number of children who have died or been wounded as a result of our air operations has dropped by nearly 40 percent in 2012 compared to 2011."

    The multinational force said it assessed that 84 percent of all Afghan civilians killed and wounded in 2012 were victims of insurgent attacks.

    It said insurgents' indiscriminate use of IEDs and suicide bombers was taking an extraordinary toll on Afghan civilians.  In 2012, the insurgents killed or injured nearly 3500 Afghan civilians.

    To minimize the risk of civilian casualties, both ISAF and US forces in Afghanistan employed detailed systems of technical, tactical and procedural checks and balances before employing all weapons, the force said. It said they took precautions to employ force only when necessary, and in a proportional manner. 

    "Strict rules apply to the use of air-delivered munitions, particularly when civilians may be present and whenever there is a possibility of striking a civilian structure," the ISAF statement said, rejecting any implication that the US was indiscriminate in the use of force.

    "Despite all efforts to avoid them, forces operating under ISAF, including US forces, are sometimes responsible for civilian deaths during coalition operations.  In each case, ISAF and US military officials make every effort to meet with the families of those we have harmed and to express our condolences personally."

    In a continuing effort to further reduce civilian casualties, ISAF and US and Afghan forces continuously collaborated on all civilian casualty mitigation efforts, it said.  "Lessons are continuously shared, procedures improved, incidents investigated, policies modified, training amended and tactics updated," the statement said, concluding the mitigation of civilian casualties had direct command oversight and the highest level of priority in both ISAF and US forces in Afghanistan.

    pr/ma

     



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