“In Afghanistan, if someone comes to your home [to apologize] you do not get revenge on them. But we also request them to help the families of those killed… If they dont help our families, we take it as a sign that they did this intentionally. And then people will raise their guns to fight them.”- Abdul*, whose eight-year-old son was killed in an ISAF airstrike
When we first went to Afghanistan, in 2003, civilian protection was not a priority for international forces, and little help was available for civilians harmed. That has changed, thanks in part to our work.
We convinced NATO to adopt its first compensation policy for Afghan war victims. We pressed international forces to create a formal way to track civilian casualties and improve their operations, which they did. We convinced the US Congress to create its first assistance program specifically for civilians harmed by US combat operations. We created a step-by-step process for international and Afghan forces to respectfully respond to civilian casualties.
Now international forces are turning over operations to Afghan forces. We are concerned that civilians will be at increased risk if Afghan forces do not fully prepare to prevent harm. We are offering the Afghan government practical solutions to prevent and respond to civilian harm—such as training for its forces, a way to track civilian casualties, and opporunities to learn from international forces' experiences by developing a policy for responding to civilian losses. In 2014, we published Civilian Harm Tracking: Analysis of ISAF Efforts in Afghanistan, which identifies lessons learned from implementing the first large-scale civilian casualty tracking mechanism.
We will continue to work with the Afghan government to ensure it has the tools it needs to prevent and respond to civilian harm after withdrawal of international forces.