CBC News & Bill Graveland / Canadian Press – 2007-01-03 22:38:32
Too Many Afghan Civilians Killed by NATO Forces: Official
(January 3, 2007) — A NATO official says its forces killed too many civilians in Afghanistan in 2006 but the alliance is hoping to reduce the number in 2007.
“The single thing that we have done wrong and we are striving extremely hard to improve on [in 2007] is killing innocent civilians,” Brig. Richard Nugee, spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said in Kabul on Wednesday.
Nugee said the alliance has been discussing for several weeks what it needs to do to reduce the number of civilian casualties. But Nugee said it is important to remember that the Taliban, which is waging an insurgency in southern Afghanistan, killed far more civilians last year through its record number of roadside and suicide bomb attacks.
“There is absolutely no comparison to be made,” he said. “The Taliban are killing significant numbers of their own people and showing no remorse at all.”
Last October, NATO air strikes reportedly killed 31 people, including 20 members of one family, in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province. The offensive involved Canadian soldiers. NATO and Afghan officials investigated the incident, but the results of the investigation were never released to the public. The New York Times, however, reported that the investigation determined that 31 civilians died in the incident.
Nugee said NATO commanders have gone over the incident and the investigation “in very fine detail. While it has not come out publicly, it has made quite an impact on this headquarters,” he said.
NATO officials were also accused of killing handfuls of civilians in 2006 through air strikes in its military operations and through gunfire from soldiers in military convoys. Taliban militants, meanwhile, were said to be responsible for the deaths of 206 Afghan civilians, 54 Afghan security forces staff and 18 soldiers in NATO’s ISAF through 117 suicide attacks in 2006.
The total, a record number, is six times the number that the Taliban launched in 2005.
Canada has more than 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, the majority stationed in Kandahar. Forty-four Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since Canada first sent troops to the country in early 2002.
ISAF is an international force in Afghanistan that is composed of about 32,000 troops from 37 countries.
With files from the Associated Press
NATO Aims to Cut Civilian Afghan Deaths
Bill Graveland / Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (January 03, 2007) — Civilian deaths in the war against Taliban rebels have hurt the ability of coalition forces to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, a NATO spokesman conceded Wednesday.
“It’s not something you want to do. It has been regrettable incidents over the course of the past five years,” said Squadron Leader Dave Marsh, a British spokesman for the western alliance.
“We’ve been doing everything we can to try and reduce that number,” Marsh told to reporters at Kandahar Airfield.
NATO did not give an estimate of the number of civilian deaths caused by coalition operations. However, it said the insurgents launched 117 suicide attacks last year, a 600 per cent increase over 2005, killing 206 Afghan civilians, 54 Afghan security personnel and 18 NATO soldiers.
NATO forces were accused of killing dozens of civilians last year, either in air strikes during battle or in gunfire from military convoys that felt threatened. Civilians have also died in ground attacks by coalition forces.
Air strikes in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province in October were reported by Afghan authorities to have killed dozens of civilians. Mostly Canadians were involved in that offensive, although Canada does not have strike jets in Afghanistan.
In one instance, nine civilians were killed and several others wounded when coalition forces rained bombs and rockets on Ashogha, a village west of Kandahar city.
A NATO investigation into a deadly raid found the operation had been carried out “within the rules of engagement and the village was a legitimate target,” but added that there was reason to believe the mission had been compromised.
NATO is working toward reducing civilian casualties, Marsh said, adding that those efforts have show success so far in Operation Baaz Tsuka, the current offensive in southern Afghanistan.
The offensive, which includes Canadian troops, has seen NATO troops securing villages and making contact with village elders. The village elders then help select local men to join Afghan National Auxiliary Police detachments to provide security in each area.
“If you look at Operation Baaz Tsuka and the way we have been conducting ourselves there, we’ve learned the lessons from Op Medusa, we’ve learned the lessons of the previous five years as well,” said Marsh.
“The fact you begin to build up a better picture of what’s where, what the movements are and everything else that’s going on in that place by speaking to the locals, by speaking to the elders in particular,” he said.
The contact with the elders provides NATO troops with the intelligence necessary to discover if the Taliban are nearby and possibly prevent further attacks that result in the deaths of innocent civilians.
The commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan said he is being kept informed about the movement into villages in the Howz-e Madad area because of improved military intelligence, which includes help from elders.
“So when you take all that information together it paints a very clear picture that things are getting better from a security standpoint,” said Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant.
“And the village elders have already said very clearly it is their intention to move back into their homes as quickly as possible,” he said.
NATO reported a battle between Afghan National Army (ANA) and coalition special operations forces near Cahar Cineh in Uruzgan province Tuesday.
A group of Taliban was observed placing improvised explosive devices along a road before moving to a nearby compound. Three Taliban fighters were killed in a subsequent air strike and by other fire, NATO said.
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