AFGHANISTAN: Afghans Blame U.S. for Civilian Casualties, Report Says
October 19, 2010 by warvictims
By: David Wood
October 7, 2010
A study published by the Open Society Foundations shows that Afghans blame US for civilian casualties. The report also calls for the Afghan government to set up an independent organization to maintain a national registry of civilian victims that would list cause of death and who is responsible and urges the international community to extend recent troop directives to reduce the potential for civilian casualties.
The “surge” troops President Obama sent into Afghanistan to turn the tide against the Taliban may be having the opposite effect.
According to a new study published Thursday, Afghan civilians increasingly are “angry and resentful” at U.S. and allied military forces, blaming them for “civilian casualties, night raids, wrongful or abusive detentions [and] deteriorating security.”
The study, based on interviews and focus group sessions with more than 250 Afghans, conveys bad news for Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan and architect of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, and for President Obama.
Together, they are gambling that the additional troops will be able to protect Afghan civilians from the Taliban and win their confidence.
The opposite seems to be happening, according to the study by the Open Society Foundations, a network of non-governmental organizations funded by philanthropist George Soros.
“Despite the outpourings of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of troops over the last eight years, many Afghans are angry and resentful at the international presence in Afghanistan,” the report said. “The perceived impunity of international forces have generated negative stereotypes of international forces as violent, abusive, and sometimes, deliberately malevolent in their conduct and nature.”
Most civilian casualties are caused by Taliban insurgents, according to carefully detailed United Nations reports. Civilian casualties jumped 31 percent in the first six months of 2010 because of increased Taliban attacks, the U.N. reported
in August. Insurgent roadside bombs and suicide attacks killed 557 Afghan civilians in that period, while U.S. and allied airstrikes killed 223 civilians — a 64 percent decline from the previous year, the U.N. said.
But many of the Afghans interviewed for the Open Society report accused U.S. and allied forces of being responsible anyway. “Many were even suspicious that international forces were directly or indirectly supporting insurgents. These suspicions, in turn, have fed into broader shifts toward framing international forces as occupiers, rather than as a benefit to Afghanistan. Today, each incident of abuse, whether caused by international forces or insurgents, reinforces these negative perceptions and further undermines any remaining Afghan trust,” the report said.
Each incident of civilian casualties instantly becomes propaganda fodder for the Taliban and the Afghan government. Kabul often shifts blame to NATO forces, as in a case last month involving allegations that civilians were killed during a battle in eastern Laghman province. The Taliban are quick to blame Western forces for any civilian casualties, and official NATO investigations of such allegations often lag weeks after the incident, often too late to affect public opinion.
Even pro-West Afghans, and those who have benefited by the U.S. presence, “expressed negative attitudes toward the international community, and international forces in particular,” the Open Society interviewers found.
The study urged the international community in Afghanistan to extend recent troop directives to reduce the potential for civilian casualties, to stop night raids as the primary kill/capture tactic, and to go easy on creating and arming local militias, which in the past have empowered local warlords and exacerbated conflict.
The Afghan government should set up an independent organization to maintain a national registry of civilian victims that would list cause of death and who is responsible, the report suggested.