Washington—Following President Trump’s speech on the new US strategy for engagement in Afghanistan, Federico Borello, Executive Director of Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), issued the following statement:

“Last night, the President referred to the conflict in Afghanistan as the “longest war in American history.” But it’s important to note that it has also been a long and costly war for the Afghan people. For sixteen years, civilians have paid a remarkable and tragic toll. They should not be expected to suffer more.

“Reducing the emphasis on minimizing harm to civilians will not hasten the war’s end. Even subtly suggesting that greater civilian harm must be the inevitable cost of “swift, decisive, and overwhelming force” presents a false choice between protecting civilian life and defeating terrorists.

“We reiterate our concern about the increase in civilian death, injury, and destruction to civilian property in Afghanistan stemming from US operations. The UN mission in Afghanistan estimates that civilian casualties caused by US strikes have increased by 70% in the first six months of 2017 over the same time period in 2016.

“Increasing US troop levels need not lead to increased civilian harm, and in some cases, may actually help to reduce it. But an increase in ground forces and the provision of training to local forces must take place within a strategy that emphasizes the importance of protecting civilians.

“We know from more than a decade of experience in Afghanistan that military operations need not necessarily lead to additional civilian harm, and we challenge the US Department of Defense to continue to find ways to avoid killing more Afghan men, women, and children”.

Background:

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Notes to editors:
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)‘s mission is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. We call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed we advocate for the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. We bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.

For more information, contact Christopher Allbritton at +1 (917) 310-4785 or chris@civiliansinconflict.org.