With both major party presidential candidates advocating an escalation of the US war in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch has released an important report that studies the rising number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan as a result of US and NATO air strikes. According to the report, civilian deaths from air strikes have nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007.
While casualties have decreased in the past year, Human Rights Watch reports that air strikes by the US and NATO–particularly “rapid response strikes” launched in reaction to calls from soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan–have continued to result in civilian deaths. The organization charges that while the Taliban bears responsibility for some civilian deaths due to its use of human shields, the United States also bears responsibility:
“Human Rights Watch criticized the poor response by US officials when civilian deaths occur. Prior to conducting investigations into airstrikes causing civilian loss, US officials often immediately deny responsibility for civilian deaths or place all blame on the Taliban. US investigations conducted have been unilateral, ponderous, and lacking in transparency, undercutting rather than improving relations with local populations and the Afghan government. A faulty condolence payment system has not provided timely and adequate compensation to assist civilians harmed by US actions.”
Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said in a news release that:
“The US needs to end the mistakes that are killing so many civilians… The US must also take responsibility, including by providing timely compensation, when its airstrikes kill Afghan civilians. While Taliban shielding is a factor in some civilian deaths, the US shouldn’t use this as an excuse when it could have taken better precautions. It is, after all, its bombs that are doing the killing.”