In 2019, Afghan civilians experienced a rise in casualties as a result of increased kinetic operations against armed opposition groups (AOGs) by international and Afghan forces, with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reporting 700 civilian deaths and 345 injuries resulting from airstrikes. This year, UNAMA’s numbers were three times as high in the first 6 months as compared to the same period in 2019. In light of this worrying trend, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) interviewed Afghan National Army (ANA) ground commanders, Afghan Air Force (AAF) personnel, and Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators (ATACs) to better understand targeting practices and policies, and air to ground coordination during operations.
CIVIC’s brief, “Afghan Airstrikes: Good Practices and Challenges to Protect Civilians”, examines the ongoing challenges contributing to civilian casualties during airstrikes in Afghanistan. The brief also notes good practices that should be strengthened and recommends further actions to help mitigate civilian harm in future operations. Though CIVIC acknowledges that most civilian deaths and injuries are caused by AOGs, the Afghan government must ensure that the AAF understands the unique challenges associated with airstrikes and takes immediate steps to mitigate civilian harm arising from aerial operations.