Press Room

Making Amends for Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

By Una Moore

The issue of civilian casualties in Afghanistan is one I became personally acquainted with on September 18, 2010, Election Day. A 23 year old member of my election monitoring field team, newly married and soon to become a father, was struck by a U.S. military vehicle on a dark provincial road as he made his way home from his assigned polling center. He was airlifted to the hospital at Bagram Air Base for treatment but died from his injuries three days later.

A representative of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) visited my office the next morning with a detailed report on the incident, including a timeline of the events leading up to my colleague’s death. By then, the young election observer’s body had already been returned to his family and U.S. Army officers had visited his parents and wife to explain in detail what had happened, offer condolences, and make a solatia payment.  While understandably grief-stricken, the family accepted this response and said they bore no ill will toward international troops because their loved one’s death had been an accident, not an act of violence.

Had an Afghan soldier been driving the vehicle that hit my colleague that night two and a half years ago, his parents and widow might have received his body and nothing else –no explanation, no acknowledgement of their loss, no monetary assistance of any kind.

Read the whole Q&A with Michael Shaikh, Center Director of Country Operations here:


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