Watchdogs raise concerns over Afghan civilian casualties

Written by The Frontier Post

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Amid an unprecedented surge in US air strikes on insurgents, Amnesty International called on all parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan to respect the ‘law of war’ and stop harming the civilians in the country.

“They should respect the law of war and do whatever they can practically to reduce the number of civilian casualties to zero,” said Zaman Sultani, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

The Human Rights Watch office in Kabul released a report on Thursday referencing “summary executions” and “other grave abuses without accountability” by the CIA-backed Afghan forces in some parts of Afghanistan.

The report says “these strike forces have unlawfully killed civilians during night raids, forcibly disappeared detainees, and attacked healthcare facilities for allegedly treating insurgent fighters.”

This comes as the US military in a report has said that the US forces in Afghanistan carried out 1,113 air and artillery strikes during the month of September on insurgents in various regions of the country.

“US Forces – Afghanistan engaged terror and security targets with 1,113 strikes consisting of 1,438 engagements in Afghanistan, September 1-30, 2019 to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven to the Islamic State Khorasan Province, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations,” the Resolute Support Mission said in a statement on Thursday.

On September 1, US forces conducted 21 strikes consisting of 26 engagements, says the statement.

“The aforementioned summary contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing, or remotely piloted aircraft, rocket propelled artillery and ground-based tactical artillery. US Forces – Afghanistan may refine strike assessments,” Resolute Support said.

Meanwhile, officials from the Afghan Ministry of Defense have said that the Afghan security forces have recaptured 13 districts from the Taliban insurgents with the help of US air strikes on the insurgents.

According to Afghan security officials, a surge in the US air strikes on the Taliban have aided the Afghan security forces in recapturing three districts in Badakhshan, three in Takhar, one district in Baghlan, two districts in Faryab and three districts in Ghazni province.

“We managed to recapture thirteen districts from the enemy in eight months,” said Rohullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

Ghulam Sakhi is an Afghan citizen who lost three members of his family last year in Jabal Saraj district of northern Parwan province when the Afghan forces and their foreign counterparts carried out air strikes on the insurgents.

Three other civilians were wounded in the attack.

“They had shot my son in his head in this place,” said Ghulam Sakhi.

But a number of military experts have said that a lack of coordination between the Afghan security forces and their foreign counterparts is sometimes causing tragic deaths among the civilian population.

“The attacks—along with being effective they also cause tragedies,” said military analyst Kabul Khan Tadbir. A surge in US air and artillery strikes against insurgents occurred in September following the collapse of the peace negotiation talks between the US and the Taliban.

Last month, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released new figures about the Afghan civilian casualities and raised grave concerns about the unprecedented levels of violence harming civilians during the third quarter of 2019.

From January 1 to September 30, UNAMA documented 8,239 civilian casualties (2,563 deaths and 5,676 injured), which was similar to the same period in compared to the previous year.

However, in the third quarter—July 1 to September 30—UNAMA documented an unprecedented spike in civilian casualties, with 1,174 civilian deaths and 3,139 injured.

Anti-Government elements continued to cause the majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and also caused slightly more civilian deaths than Pro-Government Forces in the first nine months of 2019, the UN report said. Forty-one per cent of all civilian casualties from this nine-month period were women and children.

Civilians living in the provinces of Kabul, Nangarhar, Helmand, Ghazni, and Faryab were most directly impacted by the conflict (in that order).

“From 1 January to 30 September 2019, UNAMA recorded continued increases in civilian casualties from aerial operations and search operations, as well as an increase in civilian casualties from explosive remnants of war and non-suicide IEDs, as compared to the same time period in 2018,” the UNAMA report said.

Last month, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health released new figures showing that conflict-related violence in the past 12 months has left more than 3,300 civilians dead and over 14,600 others wounded. (TOLOnews)

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