Civilian Casualties

According to the news reports, dozens of civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes recently in the south-eastern and western parts of the country, and it has deepened the concerns of the Afghan people and human rights organizations.

Last week during heavy clashes between US-led coalition forces and insurgents in both western Farah and eastern Kunar provinces, coalition forces in both provinces called for air supports which killed a large number of civilians. According to the provincial officials, 108 civilians were killed in the Balabluk district of Farah province and 60 people were killed in eastern Kunar province. The first air strike killed 35 civilians in Kunar on Thursday including 9 family members of a man called Mohammed and 25 more civilians were killed on Friday while they were burying the bodies of those who were killed in Thursday's air raids

However the NATO spokesman denies the civilian deaths and says that all those who were killed were insurgents. But the villagers claim that there was no militants in the village. A senior police officer in Kunar also confirmed the civilian casualties in Kunar. According to the Afghan officials and international aid groups, more than 300 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes in Afghanistan this year. According to military analysts, the shortage of ground forces allows commanders to call for air support.

In my opinion, the US-led coalition and the members of the NATO forces should increase the number of their troops in Afghanistan to be able to fight the insurgents in different parts of the country. If they use more ground troops it will prevent civilian casualties. Also there should be better coordination between the US, Afghan and NATO forces. The coalition forces should be 100% sure of insurgents' presence in the villages before they conduct any air strike against any village. I am not a military analyst but I advise that first of all the coalition forces must have coordination with the Afghan forces in every single operation. The Afghan forces can accurately tell the coalition forces about the presence of insurgents in the villages. The coalition forces should concentrate more on ground operations instead of using air raids against the insurgents in the villages. The coalition forces and Afghan army should surround the village and identify the exact location of the bad guys and then start their attacks. If they are not sure where the insurgents are exactly hidden then they should keep the village surrounded even for 2 or 3 days and use their small arms to kill the insurgents.

This will be a very useful way to prevent civilian casualties and if the coalition forces face a shortage of ground troops to do such an operation, then the coalition forces should provide an emergency contact number with each ANA or ANP checkpoints in every single district, particularly in the southern and eastern provinces, and the Afghan forces should have 4 checkpoints one mile away from each village and they can easily fight any insurgents that wants to sneak into the village. And if the Afghan forces aren't able to fight insurgents they must have an emergency contact number with the coalition air forces to call for air support and they can tell the exact location of insurgents to the coalition forces and then the coalition forces can target only those locations where terrorists are hidden. This will also prevent civilian casualties.

I have seen people in different areas talking between themselves about civilian casualties, saying that if US forces pay attention they can avoid civilian casualties - they have the best weapons and they can easily target bad guys among the civilians and they have those red lasers that they can aim at any bad guy from their aircraft and can easily kill so there should not be any civilian casualties. Dozens of the Afghan National Army and police have been killed in friendly fire by the coalition forces and it shows the lack of coordination between both Afghan and coalition forces. Most educated Afghans living in the cities know that coalition forces aren't deliberately killing the civilians, but they also oppose killing of many civilians over a few bad guys.

We do blame the Taliban for using villagers as human shields. They don't care about civilians' lives. They have been killing civilians by suicide attacks. They are killing teachers, doctors and any innocent civilians who work for the Afghan government or international organizations as employees and that's why we call them terrorists, insurgents and rebels. We just want more attention from foreign forces during their operations. It's hard to believe for many villagers that coalition forces aren't deliberately killing them because a few times villages came mistakenly under attack and there is a lack of education. They just don't like anyone who kills their family members or relatives, regardless of whether they are Afghan forces, Taliban or coalition forces.

There have been a large number of civilian casualties by coalition air strikes during the year 2005/2006, but people are hoping this will end soon. The Afghan people realise that without sacrifice we can't have our freedom, but we also expect the foreign forces to take more care. Especially now that the war has been going on for so long. In the year 2005, over 85% of the Afghans supported their elected government and the presence of the coalition forces in their country. But now it seems that this 85% support has been reduced a little. I still believe that most Afghan people still support the presence of the coalition forces till they eradicate all terrorists from Afghanistan and we have true freedom and democracy in our country. And we hope this will happen soon with support of the world community.


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