‘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.

Armed opposition groups in Afghanistan have in recent years escalated their attacks and captured new territory, with Afghan civilians paying in lost lives and livelihoods. The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported more than 8,000 civilian deaths and injuries in 2017 alone; this rose to a record high of 5,122 in the first half of 2018. In September 2017, following two years of advocacy by CIVIC and others, the government adopted a national civilian casualty prevention policy. This was a significant step, but the challenge going forward will be how to most effectively implement it, particularly as the war grinds into its 18th year.

To address these civilian protection challenges, CIVIC takes a multi-pronged approach. We provide assistance to the Afghan government and NATO’s Resolute Support mission to develop and implement pragmatic solutions to minimize harm to civilians. We have begun training of Afghan security forces on CHM—a crucial need identified in the civilian casualty prevention policy—as national security forces take the lead on combat operations. And we work at the community level in Baghlan, Herat, Kandahar, Nangarhar, and soon in Balkh, with gender-inclusive shuras (traditional councils) to build their knowledge of protection issues and their skills as advocates for their own protection.

Since 2015 we have worked with civil society groups to create an Afghan civilian protection working group to help civil society work with parties to the conflict on civilian protection issues. In 2017, we have expanded this work to communities affected by violence.

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Image courtesy of Department of Defense