Afghanistan Publications

Reports & Briefs

Saving Ourselves: Security Transition and Impact on Civilian Protection in Afghanistan
21 November 2016 | Research Report

This report examines the impact on civilian protection of the transition from international security forces to Afghan forces. Our research in Baghlan, Kandahar, Kunduz, and Nangarhar examined actions by the various warring parties that impact civilians, how civilians perceive security forces’ e orts at protection, and how civilians cope with deteriorating security and protecting themselves. Finally, it recommends ways for the government to address civilian protection needs. 

Addressing Civilian Casualties: Implementation Plan for an Afghan Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team
15 October 2015  |  Policy Briefing
In 2015, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission (RS) requested CIVIC to undertake a study on current civilian casualty tracking and mitigation capabilities within GIRoA and to provide GIRoA and Afghan security forces with an implementation plan for establishing an effective system to track, minimize and address civilian harm, including in particular the creation of a Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team (CCMT). 

Ex-gratia Payments in Afghanistan: A Case for Standing Policy for the US Military
12 May 2015  |  Briefing Paper
U.S. Army Central (ARCENT) recently made public detailed information on ex-gratia payments awarded by the US military in Afghanistan from October 2005 to September 2014. This newly released data, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, further substantiates the inconsistencies and ad hoc nature of this program as detailed in a 2008 white paper by CIVIC. While efforts to assist civilians harmed during military operations are laudable, the US military should urgently adopt a standing policy to govern such programs in a fair and equitable manner both within and across combat theaters. This is both a strategic and ethical imperative.

Acknowledge, Amend, Assist: Addressing Civilian Harm Caused by Armed Conflict and Armed Violence
30 April 2015  |  Journal Article

CIVIC discusses the concepts of civilian harm tracking and amends in two articles in Harvard Law School Human Rights Program and Action on Armed Violence's publication "Acknowledge, Amend, Assist: Addressing Civilian Harm Caused by Armed Conflict and Armed Violence."

Civilian Harm Tracking: Analysis of ISAF Efforts in Afghanistan
19 May 2014  |  Case Study

In this case study, CIVIC examines how ISAF's civilian casualty mitigation programs developed and operated and identifies important lessons for future efforts. The study is based on interviews with ISAF, NATO and U.S. military personnel, as well as civilian analysts and representatives of international organizations and non-international organizations.

Monetary Payments for Civilian Harm in International and National Practice
02 October 2013  |  Research Report

This report maps various programs and their implementation in settings of armed conflict and in response to serious crimes and terrorist attacks. The report’s aim is not to “set a price” on civilian losses, but rather to evaluate the consistency of current practice in providing monetary payments—both the amounts and the methodology used by the entity offering the payment.

Changing of the Guard: Civilian Protection for an Evolving Military
20 June 2013  |  Journal Article

This piece was originally published in PRISM Vol. 4, no. 2. Prism is a journal of the Center for Complex Operations. Reducing civilian harm and properly responding to civilian losses in armed conflict is a win/win for America’s shifting strategy. What’s more, these objectives are entirely possible with leadership, attention, and focus from US government officials.

Caring for Their Own: A Stronger Afghan Response to Civilian Harm  
27 January 2013 | Research Report
This report examines the Afghan government’s response to civilian harm, including how it conducts investigations and assists civilians caught in the conflict. Based on more than 180 interviews, this is the first report that documents and analyzes how and whether Afghan policies for addressing civilian harm work for those they intend to serve—the thousands of Afghan civilians harmed every year due to war. The report shows that urgent reforms are needed in the Afghan government’s response to civilian harm caused by other warring parties and by its own security forces.

No Time to Lose: Promoting the Accountability of the Afghan National Security Forces 
05 May 2011 | Joint Briefing Paper

As greater responsibility is handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces, there is a serious risk that unless adequate accountability mechanisms are put in place, violations of human rights and humanitarian law will escalate – and Afghan civilians will pay the price.  Troop-contributing states have been slow to honor their moral and legal obligation to ensure the accountability of the national security forces, and time to do so is running out. Joint Briefing Paper by Oxfam in partnership with Center for Civilians in Conflict, Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium, Peace Training and Research Organization (PTRO) in May 2011.

Addressing Civilian Harm in Afghanistan: Policies and Practices of International Forces 
15 June 2010 | Policy Brief

Afghan civilians deserve amends from warring parties for deaths, injuries, and property losses—that is, some form of recognition and monetary compensation. The Center's research into the experiences of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops and Afghan civilians demonstrates that when international military forces provide payment, especially combined with an apology for harm, civilian hostility toward international forces decreases. However, the effectiveness of these payments has been limited by the lack of uniform policies across ISAF nations, limited information gathering about civilian harm generally, and—in many cases—insensitive requirements that civilians suffering losses take the initiative to file claims. This report describes the policies and practices of major ISAF Troop Contributing Nations. It finds that soldiers, as well as civilians, view amends for harm favorably. The process of investigation, negotiation of payment, and offers of formal compensation are opportunities to strengthen relationships with local leaders and communities, to explain what happened, and acknowledge the loss.

United States Military Compensation to Civilians in Armed Conflict  
07 May 2010 | Policy Brief

This report discusses the history of US military claims for civilian harm and reviews existing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Center’s research for this briefing paper was conducted in Washington, Afghanistan, and Iraq from 2006–2010. Interviews include military personnel, humanitarian organizations, journalists covering civilian harm, and civilians suffering losses. Additional research includes the examination of 12,776 pages of claims documentation, released in 2007 and 2009, by the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Losing the People: The Costs and Consequences of Civilian Suffering in Afghanistan 
18 February 2009  |  
Research Report
When harm occurs, the imperative must be easing civilian suffering and making amends for losses. This report looks closely at the existing compensation and victim assistance mechanisms to see what works and what does not. Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed 143 civilians affected by the conflict to document the harm they experienced and find out which, if any, of the existing compensation and victim assistance mechanisms, met their needs and expectations. Above all, the Center’s research shows that compensation and victim assistance is both possible and practical, despite statements from government and military officials to the contrary.

Compensating Civilian Casualties: "I am sorry for your loss and I wish you well in a free Iraq" 
30 May 2009  |  Joint Briefing Paper 

This report examines 506 claims filed by Afghan and Iraqi civilians against the US military for monetary aid for harm allegedly caused by US forces. Tens of thousands of such claims have been filed in Afghanistan and Iraq; however, the 506 claims researched for this report represent the only files released by the US government to date. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) received these documents pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The US Foreign Claims Act (FCA) authorizes compensation awards to foreign nationals for death, injury, and damage to property from “noncombat activity or a negligent or wrongful act or omission” caused by US service members. The condolence payment program, separately, is part of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program fund and authorizes commanders to provide symbolic “gifts” for death, injury, or battle damage caused during US military combat operations. Both programs are ex gratia (an “act of grace”), meaning no law requires an award or payment. Yet, the American public, the Iraqi and Afghan people, and major segments of the US military do not adequately understand these programs. This report is by Jonathan Tracy, J.D., LL.M. Prepared for the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and the Center for Civilians in Conflict in 2008.


Backgrounder: Civilian Harm Tracking  |  August 2013


Testimony & Advocacy

CIVIC Remarks at SOCOM Legal Conference
27 February 2015  |  Speech

Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Program Manager MENA and South Asia at CIVIC, spoke at the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Legal Conference on February 25, 2015.

Afghanistan: Return to Hope
05 September 2014  |  Video Interview
CIVIC discusses civilian harm mitigation lessons learned in "Return to Hope” — NATO’s virtual overview of its mission in Afghanistan.

CIVIC Remarks at NATO Meeting
03 July 2014  |  Speech
Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Program Manager MENA and South Asia at CIVIC, spoke at the Operations Planning Committee/ ISAF Format Meeting at NATO Headquarters.

CIVIC Remarks at OCHA Conference
24 June 2014  |  Speech
Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Program Manager MENA and South Asia at CIVIC, spoke at the OCHA Conference on Strengthening Protection of Civilians from Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, UN ECOSOC Humanitarian Segment.

CIVIC Remarks at Oslo Expert Meeting
18 June 2014  |  Speech
Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Program Manager MENA and South Asia at CIVIC, spoke at the Informal Expert Meeting on Protecting Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons, in Oslo, Norway.

Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law
23 May 2013  |  Floor Statement

Floor Statement from Sarah Holewinski, CIVIC's Executive Director, at a panel hosted by the Government of Norway.

CIVIC Testimony on Victims’ Assistance in Afghanistan, State, and Foreign Operations Hearing 
01 April 2009  |  Testimony to US Senate Committee on Appropriations
Submitted Testimony of Erica Gaston, CIVIC's field researcher in Afghanistan, to US Senate Committee on Appropriations on the need for recognition, compensation, and other assistance in Afghanistan.



Lessons From Kunduz: The Next Steps in Preventing Civilian Casualties
14 October 2015  
|  Newsweek  |  Federico Borello & Christina Asquith  |  Opinion

Afghan Forces Need to Protect Civilians Too
30 January 2014  |  Foreign Policy  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Opinion

Civilians Can Benefit When the Military Learns from its Mistakes
29 October 2013  |  Washington Post  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  LTE

Marla Ruzicka’s Heroism
19 September 2013
  |  The Nation  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Article

What Civilian Casualties? Afghan Forces' Implausible Denials
12 March 2013  |  Foreign Policy  |  Trevor Keck  |  Opinion

Making Amends for Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan 
03 February 2013  |  UN Dispatch  |  Michael Shaikh  |  Q&A

As Pentagon Reshapes Fighting Force, Civilian Casualties Need to be Considered
07 September 2012
  |  The Hill  |  Sarah Holewinski and Dr. Larry Lewis  |  Opinion


Press Releases

Afghan Forces Should Better Avoid Civilian Casualties  |  08 February 2014
Following today’s release of the UN’s latest civilian casualty figures, the Afghan government must urgently improve its efforts to minimize civilian harm caused by its forces.

Afghanistan: NATO Must Fully Respond to Alleged Civilian Harm from Airstrike Near Jalalabad  |  08 October 2014

Afghan Government Must Improve its Response to Civilian Harm  |  31 July 2014
With civilian casualties once again rising in Afghanistan, the Afghan government must urgently boost its response to civilian casualties.

Drones More Likely to Harm Civilians than Manned Aircraft in Afghanistan  |  02 July 2014

Afghan Government Must Strengthen Response to Civilian Harm  |  27 January 2013
New Report finds Afghan Claim System Broken

Civilian Safety Must be Prioritized During Afghan Night Raids  |  10 April 2012

Compensation for Civilian Losses in Kandahar  |  26 March 2012

CIVIC Statement on Shooting of Civilians by US Soldier in Kandahar  |  12 March 2012

Violations by Afghan Forces Could Escalate as They Take on Frontline Role  |  07 September 2011

Families of Two Civilians Killed Deserve Amends for Losses  |  25 March 2011


In Remembrance of Our Founder  |  16 April 2015

Infographics: Monetary Payments for Civilian Harm  |  02 April 2013

War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath  |  25 July 2013

Afghanistan's War Victims: Zalmay's Story  |  30 April 2012

Voices from the Field: Who are Afghanistan’s War Victims?  |  24 April 2012

Fast Forward: What Would an Expedited Transition Mean for Afghan Civilians?  |  04 April 2012

Stop Playing the Blame Game: Ex Gratia Payments in the Fog of War  |  28 February 2012

A Tale of Two Narratives in Afghanistan  |  19 January 2012

AFGHANISTAN: Civilians Caught in the Middle  |  14 June 2011

GUEST BLOG: Afghanistan: A Soldier’s Perspective  |  25 May 2011