Posted By: Erica

We arrived in Herat today — the largest city in Western region of Afghanistan, not far from the Iranian border — where we met with the Regional Command West (RCWest), the regional headquarters for ISAF. RCWest has been trying to use money from the Post-Operations Humanitarian Relief Fund [read our recent press release] to get emergency relief to different areas of the province that are suffering the effects of recent and ongoing operations. We also met with the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which head up medium- to long-term development and reconstruction projects for the province. It was striking how dedicated and involved these CIMIC (Civil Military Coordinators) were in finding ways for the international forces to bring emergency relief, stabilization and reconstruction support to the Western region.

In complete and tragic contrast, though, I then ended my day by meeting several survivors of the July 17 US bomb strike on the Zerkoh community of Shindand province. The site of the bombing is still too insecure to know the final damage toll – residents I interviewed said that military forces still prevented them from returning to see the damage to their homes and communities. Initial estimates, though, suggest as many as 50 civilians may have been killed. The same community was hit in April 2007 by US air strikes, killing an estimated 59 civilians, injuring 62, and destroying or severely damaging an estimated 110 houses.

Civilian losses like these in one stroke can undo all the good intentions of the CIMIC teams at RCWest or the PRTs. I asked one of the civilian survivors what his impression was of international forces after the recent bombing of his community, “I used to think that [the international forces] would not use force on civilian people. Now I see that it has changed. They are killing all people; they don’t care if it is civilians or the bad guys. They think all Afghans are the same. They see it all from the same lens.”

Image courtesy of CIVIC
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