A coalition of eleven international aid agencies including Oxfam, ActionAid, CARE, and Save the Children UK have released a new report titled “Caught in the Conflict” is critical of plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan.
The report–released in advance of a NATO Summit in France where Afghanistan will be on the agenda–argues that increases in troop levels and military operations will likely lead to higher levels of displacement, restrictions on social services, and difficulties for aid agencies.
The report is highly critical of military operations in Afghanistan, which it says are increasingly causing civilian casualties and inflicting brutality on civilians:
“The intensification and spread of the conflict in Afghanistan is increasingly affecting civilians. In 2008 there were over 2,100 civilian casualties, 55% of which were caused by militants. Despite steps to reduce civilian casualties, international military forces (IMF) caused 552 civilian deaths through airstrikes in 2008, which is up by 72% on 2007. IMF have also carried out or supported raids and search operations, a large number of which have involved an excessive use of force, including loss of life, physical assault, damage to property and theft, as well as aggressive and improper treatment of women. Such conduct not only generates anger and mistrust towards foreign troops, but is steadily eroding popular support for the international presence in the country. Furthermore, many individuals detained by Afghan and US forces are held for long periods without charge or trial, and there are allegations of mistreatment and torture.”
The report also criticizes U.S. and allied military forces for their plans to arm district councils as a way of dealing with the insurgency. It also criticizes the military for undertaking humanitarian and assistance work for counter-insurgency purposes. The report criticizes the military for blurring the distinction between aid agencies and military operations.
Recommendations to Improve Military Operations in Afghanistan
The organizations offer several recommendations on how the military strategy can be altered to lessen its impacts on civilians. Among the recommendations are suggestions that rules be tightened for using military force and air strikes, the protection of civilians should be the ultimate goal of all military operations, and there should be further transparency and accountability on the part of military forces in Afghanistan. For example, there should be a simple procedure for filing claims of property damage and other complaints against the military.