HOW MUCH IS AN

Crit­ics claim US pay­ments to civil­ian war vic­tims are un­fair, ar­bi­trary and con­fus­ing

New Straits Times - - World -

WASH­ING­TON

IN March 2014, the United States mil­i­tary paid an Afghan man just over US$1,000 (RM4,428) to com­pen­sate for killing his civil­ian son in an op­er­a­tion near the bor­der with Iran, ac­cord­ing to US mil­i­tary records.

Six months later, an­other Afghan fa­ther was given US$10,000 by the US mil­i­tary af­ter his child, also a civil­ian, was killed in an Amer­i­can-led mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in the same province.

And 68-year-old Haji Al­lah Dad lost 20 rel­a­tives, in­clud­ing his brother and sis­ter-in-law, in a US and Afghan spe­cial forces op­er­a­tion near the north­ern city of Kun­duz last Novem­ber.

Al­lah Dad said he re­ceived no money from the US mil­i­tary, though he did get com­pen­sa­tion from the Afghan gov­ern­ment.

Nearly 16 years since in­vad­ing Afghanistan, the US has no stan­dard­ised process for mak­ing com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments to the fam­i­lies of thou­sands of Afghan civil­ians killed or in­jured in USled mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

Wash­ing­ton first started mak­ing con­do­lence pay­ments in Afghanistan in 2005 af­ter re­al­is­ing that the Tal­iban was gain­ing in­flu­ence and good­will by giv­ing civil­ians money af­ter fa­tal US strikes, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tre for Civil­ians in Con­flict, a USbased ad­vo­cacy and re­search group.

Amer­ica’s ap­proach to com­pen­sa­tion is ar­bi­trary by de­sign as it tries to ne­go­ti­ate Afghanistan’s cul­tural and re­gional sen­si­tiv­i­ties as a for­eign mil­i­tary force.

But civil ac­tivists say the sys­tem is un­fair and con­fus­ing for of­ten poor and un­e­d­u­cated Afghans.

A Pen­tagon spokesman said the mil­i­tary leaves the de­ci­sion on how much to pay to com­man­ders on the ground be­cause they are best po­si­tioned to judge the in­ci­dents.

“Con­do­lence pay­ments in Afghanistan are based on cul­tural norms of the lo­cal area, ad­vice from Afghan part­ners and the cir­cum­stances of the event,” said spokesman Adam Stump.

“US com­man­ders in the­atre are, there­fore, em­pow­ered to make de­ci­sions re­gard­ing pay­ments as they have the great­est un­der­stand­ing of these fac­tors,” Stump said.

Crit­ics warn the lack of stan­dard­i­s­a­tion in com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments means Afghan civil­ian vic­tims are not treated equally as the con­flict there grinds on.

The top US com­man­der in Afghanistan has said sev­eral thou­sand more troops would be needed to break a stale­mate with the Tal­iban.

“It’s of great con­cern that we’re talk­ing about stepping up the way that we carry op­er­a­tions with­out a stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure for mak­ing con­do­lence pay­ments,” said Marla Keenan, se­nior di­rec­tor of pro­grames at the Cen­ter for Civil­ians in Con­flict.

“A man in Kan­da­har may get US$4,000 for his dam­aged car while a woman in Gardez gets US$1,000 for her dead child. Civil­ians de­serve bet­ter,” Keenan said. Reuters

REUTERS PIC

A US Ma­rine hon­our guard car­ry­ing a shrouded Afghan sol­dier to be buried at Camp Rhino, south­ern Afghanistan, in 2001. Nearly 16 years since in­vad­ing Afghanistan, the US has no stan­dard­ised process for mak­ing com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments to the fam­i­lies of thou­sands of Afghan civil­ians killed or in­jured in US-led mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.

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