We can’t expect warring parties to distribute sweets amidst a fight. What we want is for them to care about civilians’ lives and fight each other out of our villages and towns. —Malek Khairuddin, tribal chief in Parliz village, Miyanishin district in Kandahar province.

Center for Civilians in Conflict began operating in Afghanistan in 2003, raising concerns with international forces about civilian casualties. At the time, civilian protection was not a priority for international forces and little help was available for civilians who had been harmed. Thankfully this changed, thanks in part to CIVIC’s work.

CIVIC’s direct engagement in Afghanistan began in 2005 with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which soon led to changes in policies to track, analyze, and respond to civilian harm including providing condolence payments to those harmed by ISAF operations.

CIVIC convinced NATO to adopt its first amends policy, providing acknowledgment of harm and financial assistance, to Afghan war victims. We pressed international forces to create a formal method of tracking civilian casualties and to incorporate it into military operations, which they did. We convinced the US Congress to create its first non-monetary assistance program specifically for civilians harmed by US combat operations.

Since the end of NATO’s ISAF mission in December 2014, CIVIC has offered the Afghan government practical solutions to avoid and respond to civilian harm, including training for its forces, a way to track civilian casualties, opportunities to learn from international forces’ experiences, and recommendations to improve post-harm assistance mechanisms. Our report, Saving Ourselves: Security Transition and Impact on Civilian Protection, assessed protection concerns in Baghlan, Kandahar, Kunduz, and Nangarhar after the departure of international forces, and the way in which civilians perceive security forces’ efforts at protection, including how civilians cope with deteriorating security and how they protect themselves.

We have provided technical assistance to the Afghan government in coordination with NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to develop an Afghan Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team (CCMT) to better enable the Afghan government and security forces to track, analyze, and mitigate civilian harm. We have examined efforts at government post-harm assistance programs and offered detailed recommendations to improve them. Additionally, in 2015, at the invitation of the Afghan government and NATO, we conducted an assessment and provided technical advice to the government on gaps in assessing civilian harm as well as on a national civilian casualty mitigation and prevention policy.

In September 2017, following two years of advocacy by CIVIC and others, the Afghan government adopted a landmark national civilian casualty mitigation and prevention policy. This progress is significant, but there is still much work to be done. The policy must be implemented effectively across the whole of government, including developing the capacity to effectively assess civilian harm, analyze and learn from incidents, train Afghan forces on civilian harm mitigation, and ensure post-harm assistance programs are effective.

CIVIC is undertaking training of trainers (TOT) of Afghan forces on civilian harm mitigation. We are also engaged in community-based protection and have catalyzed gender-inclusive community leaders and NGOs and built their capacity to engage government forces and armed opposition groups to reduce civilian harm. In addition, CIVIC continues to engage NATO and US forces to ensure all efforts are undertaken to reduce civilian harm during their operations.

CIVIC is operating in Baghlan, Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif.

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