Airstrikes and Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan from US and NATO airstrikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007, with recent deadly airstrikes exacerbating the problem and fuelling a public backlash, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released Sept. 8. The 43-page report, ‘Troops in Contact’: Airstrikes and Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan, analyzes the use of airstrikes by US and NATO forces and resulting civilian casualties, particularly when used to make up for the lack of ground troops and during emergency situations. Human Rights Watch found few civilian deaths resulted from planned airstrikes, while almost all deaths occurred in unplanned airstrikes. The report also condemns the Taliban’s use of “human shields” in violation of the laws of war. Though operational changes advocated by Human Rights Watch have reduced the rate of civilian casualties since they spiked in July 2007, continuing tragedies, such as the July 6, 2008 strike on a wedding party and the August 22, 2008 bombing in Azizabad, have greatly undermined local support for the efforts of international forces providing security in Afghanistan.

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