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Civilian casualties an intolerable crime, say analysts

Civilian casualties an intolerable crime, say analysts

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Mar 25, 2019 - 16:12

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): Averse to night raids and operations that cause civilian casualties, analysts say such actions are intolerable as they increase the gap between the people and the government.

Casualty figures provided to Pajhwok Afghan News by locals show that 61 civilians have killed and 23 others wounded during foreign forces’ airstrike and nigh raids from February 22 to March 23 in different provinces of the country.

Security sources confirmed civilian casualties in some raids but rejected other reports about the collateral damage. They claimed militants were also killed.

The raids happened in Behsud, Khogyani and Hesarak districts of Nangarhar. MaidanWardak, Kunduz, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces also saw similar operations.

The latest raid was conducted in the Girdi area of Behsud district of Nangarhar by National Directorate of Security (NDSinfo-icon) personnel. Five civilians were killed and three others wounded.

Gen. Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired general and defence analyst, told Pajhwok: “Such attacks can lead to hatred and that’s way people are not cooperating with the government.”

Asked why civilians were killed in such raids, he replied: “Unfortunately, willful people are conducting arbitrary operations.

In response to another query, he said: “There is little room for mistakes in the military strategy; it’s is a crime. A mistake can occur for a day or two but these mistakes continue unabated.”

He slammed the current operations and raids against militants as ineffective. “Several times, I have warned the use of airstrike in tactical raids lead to civilian casualties.”

Military officials say militants hide in civilian homes and use the inmates as human shields.

Gen. Amarkhel confirmed insurgents used civilians as human shields. The government should isolate and eliminate the rebels, he believed.

As a result of raids in Maidan Wardak province, children are afraid of military activities. When they saw helicopters, they started crying and running for cover, he said.

“War has its rules. You have to fight against those who are fighting against you. Killing common people is a crime and a human rights violation,” he remarked.

Ahmad Saeedi, a political analyst, said civilian casualties often resulted from lack of coordination among security forces and provision of wrong information to them and accused military officials of not paying attention to civilians’ lives during nighttime operations.

“Government officials do not make decisions as everyone in the system acts arbitrarily. Everyone makes his own decisions and work accordingly.”

Saeedi believed there must be elements in ranks of security forces who wanted to defame the government by killing innocent civilians.

“It is a huge crime to kill innocent people, it is treason. It is unfortunate that civilian casualties have increased to the extent that all people are disheartened and the gap between the people and the government has widened. Civilian casualties are no more tolerable and may produce dire consequences.”

When asked about mistakenly targeting civilians, he said such mistakes if repeated should not be called mistakes. “A mistake takes place once, twice or thrice, but if these mistakes occur time and again, these are not mistakes.”

Ministry of Defense spokesman Qais Mangal about civilian casualties in airstrikes and nighttime operations said the rebels used civilians as human shield and their homes as bastions to protect themselves and attack security forces.

“Such hardships often occur but the defense ministry has its policy in this regard that civilians should not suffer casualties in operations.”

“Some time ago, an Afghan National Army soldier embraced a suicide bomber in order to protect civilians.”

He said the Ministry of Defense seriously investigated incidents of civilian casualties to punish the perpetrators.

Mangal said a government delegation had reached Kunduz province to investigate reports about civilian casualties.

When asked how many such incidents have been investigated so far, Mangal said it was a long legal process to collect evidence before the perpetrators were introduced to the attorneys.

Pajhwok Afghan News tried to contact the National Directorate of Security for comment about civilian casualties, but failed.

What NATOinfo-icon says about civilian casualties?

NATO Resolute Support Mission spokeswoman Debra Richardson said NATO was the worldinfo-icon’s most accurate force, but not free from errors.

She told Pajhwok Afghan News that the alliance did not consider itself innocent, but they used high standards to prevent civilian casualties.

“Sometimes we fail in this, as we have to called in air support to protect our and Afghan forces,” she said, accusing the Talibaninfo-icon and Daesh of having no regard for civilian lives.

She said the Afghan forces exercised utmost care to prevent civilian casualties but sometimes unfortunate incidents occur.

“We are facing an enemy whose is not in uniform and they hide among womeninfo-icon and children inside their homes and always tell lies about civilian casualties and propagate.”

She said the alliance had always accepted responsibility for incidents of civilian casualties and seriously investigated reliable claims.

Richardson said the most effective way to stop civilian casualties was an end to the war.

The United Nations says a record number of Afghan civilians were killed in 2018, blaming the increase on unprecedented suicide bombings by militant groups and air strikes carried out by US-led forces.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistaninfo-icon (UNAMA) said the conflict in Afghanistan killed 3,804 civilians and wounded another 7,189, an 11 percent increase from 2017, in its annual report released on February 24.

The civilian death toll is the highest number since UNAMA began tallying figures in 2009.

The UNAMA report said 2018 "witnessed the highest number of civilian casualties ever recorded from suicide attacks and aerial operations."

According to the report, 63 percent of all civilian casualties were caused by militants -- with the Taliban being blamed for 37 percent of the dead and wounded, the Islamic State (IS) militant group for 20 percent, and other antigovernment groups for 6 percent.

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