De­bris of Afghan con­flict

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - K. Iqbal

THE out­go­ing com­man­der of Op­er­a­tion Res­o­lute Sup­port and Amer­i­can troops in Afghanistan, Gen­eral John F Camp­bell, paid a farewell to Army Chief Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif on Fe­bru­ary 18th, 2016. Camp­bell paid rich tributes to the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ments of Pak­istan Army in Op­er­a­tion Zarb-eAzb. He also ac­knowl­edged Pak­istan Army's ef­forts to­wards re­gional sta­bil­ity. Gen­eral Ra­heel thanked Camp­bell in par­tic­u­lar for his ef­forts to bring about sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan! Two gen­er­als re­viewed the on­go­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process in Afghanistan and dis­cussed the way for­ward. Not­with­stand­ing the per­cep­tions of th­ese gen­er­als, score­card posted by a num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions on var­i­ous aspects of Afghan con­flict cov­er­ing post draw­down year does not leave much to feel com­pla­cent about.

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions (UN), the rate at which civil­ians are be­ing killed by the US airstrikes in Afghanistan is now at its high­est point since 2008.The UN be­gan record­ing civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Afghanistan in 2009, ever since, it has doc­u­mented nearly 59,000 deaths and in­juries. In its lat­est an­nual re­port. United Na­tions As­sis­tance Mis­sion in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says there were 103 civil­ian deaths from US air ac­tions in Afghanistan in 2015. Al­though th­ese deaths are slightly more than the 101 recorded in 2014, they came from a third as many airstrikes. While there were 1,136 airstrikes in 2014, this num­ber fell to 411 in 2015. The sud­den in­crease af­ter so many years of fall­ing ca­su­alty rates has raised con­cerns that mil­i­tary tar­get­ing is be­com­ing less ac­cu­rate or that there might have been an unan­nounced change in the rules of en­gage­ment. Dur­ing 2015, the Tal­iban pressed for­ward, cap­tur­ing towns and killing large num­bers of Afghan se­cu­rity forces, there was mount­ing pres­sure on the US to in­crease the num­ber of air at­tacks in Afghanistan to push back the Tal­iban.

Chris Woods, di­rec­tor of the mon­i­tor­ing group Air­wars, says "hard-won" lessons from 2009 on­wards, when se­ri­ous ef­forts to re­duce the civil­ian ca­su­alty rate from in­ter­na­tional airstrikes be­gan, are be­ing lost. "What [the UN data] in­di­cates to me is that they are not tak­ing the same care…This is not just about ac­cu­racy, it's about pol­i­tics," he says.

Sahr Muham­mad Ali from the Cen­tre for Civil­ians in Con­flict, a non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion, warns that Res­o­lute Sup­port needs to en­sure its sys­tems are ready for what lies ahead this year. "I think it's go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult year," she says. "In 2016, the fight's go­ing to be ugly.... RS has to en­sure that all poli­cies and guid­ance have been dis­sem­i­nated and are be­ing ad­hered to by all troops."

Over­all civil­ian ca­su­al­ties of the war in Afghanistan rose to record lev­els for the sev­enth year in row in 2015, as vi­o­lence spread across the coun­try in the wake of the with­drawal of most in­ter­na­tional troops. At least 3,545 non-com­bat­ants died and an­other 7,457 were in­jured by fight­ing last year- 4per­cent in­crease over 2014."The harm done to civil­ians is to­tally un­ac­cept­able," Ni­cholas Haysom, the head of the UNAMA said in a state­ment. Pat­tern in­di­cates that more non­com­bat­ants are be­ing caught in the cross­fire. Heavy fight­ing in the north­ern city of Kun­duz, which briefly fell to the Tal­iban in late Septem­ber 2014, and a wave of sui­cide bombs which killed and wounded hun­dreds of peo­ple in Kabul last year were the main fac­tors be­hind the rise, while else­where ca­su­al­ties fell. Ground en­gage­ments were the lead­ing cause of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties at 37 per­cent, fol­lowed by road­side bombs at 21 per­cent and sui­cide at­tacks at 17 per­cent. Women and chil­dren were hard hit, as ca­su­al­ties among women spiked 37 per­cent and deaths and in­juries in­creased 14 per­cent among chil­dren. Ca­su­al­ties at­trib­uted to pro-govern­ment forces jumped 28 per­cent com­pared to 2014 to ac­count for 17 per­cent of the to­tal.

While at the same time, a state­ment from Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani ac­cused the Tal­iban of vi­o­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional law. It said Afghan se­cu­rity forces un­der­went reg­u­lar train­ing to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians and were li­able to in­ves­ti­ga­tion if any breaches oc­curred. Tal­iban were blamed for most civil­ian deaths and in­juries, which stood at whoop­ing 62 per­cent. In­ves­ti­ga­tors ac­cused in­sur­gents of us­ing tac­tics that "de­lib­er­ately or in­dis- crim­i­nately" caused harm to civil­ians. Tal­iban have re­jected the re­port, de­scrib­ing it as "pro­pa­ganda com­piled at the be­hest of oc­cu­py­ing forces" and said the govern­ment in Kabul and its US ally were the ma­jor causes of deaths and in­juries.

UN of­fi­cials have said that pledges from both sides to limit ca­su­al­ties had not been backed up."The re­port ref­er­ences com­mit­ments made by all par­ties to the con­flict to pro­tect civil­ians, how­ever, the fig­ures doc­u­mented in 2015 re­flect dis­con­nect be­tween com­mit­ments made and the harsh re­al­ity on the ground," Bell said. She said the ex­pec­ta­tion of con­tin­ued fight­ing in the com­ing months showed the need for both sides to take im­me­di­ate steps to pre­vent harm to civil­ians. Less than half of vic­tims who re­port in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence or crime in Afghanistan do so to the po­lice, and cit­i­zens rated the ju­di­ciary as the most cor­rupt in­sti­tu­tion in the coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.