Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 27th, 2019

Civilian Casualties: A Multi-Purpose Insurgency Tool

Civilian casualties are a tragic reality of counter-insurgency campaigns in Afghanistan. There have always been debates at the policy level about the degree of risk commanders of counterinsurgency forces should assume in an effort to protect civilians from harm. Further, it is a major concern that counterinsurgent forces bear the cost for civilian casualties even when they are caused by insurgent groups. Unfortunately, civilian casualties have been rising since 2009 in Afghanistan. As a result, in the first half of 2018, 1,413 civilians have been killed and injured in suicide and complex attacks in Afghanistan. According to the UNAMA mid-year assessment Report, more civilians have been killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009 when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. Nangarhar and Kabul provinces have witnessed the most civilian casualties and they have been the top target of the ISKH and terrorist groups.
However, preventing Civilian casualties have been one of the top goals of the Afghan government and the international community; however, the Afghan and government and the international community not only have not been able to decrease and manage this critical issue but Afghanistan witnessed an unprecedented rise in civilian casualties.
Why is it so difficult to Prevent Civilian Casualties?
Insurgents in Afghanistan hide inside of the populace. When this happens, civilians die when The ANSF or the International Community forces fight them. In such case, it doesn’t matter how much training, how restrictive the rules of engagement are, or even how small of a presence the occupying power may have. Civilian deaths are part of the collateral damage of war.
Policies and practices to minimize civilian harm
Military experts believe civilian harm – death, injury and damage to property – can be avoided or minimized through many different methods. Choosing an appropriate weapons system, munitions warhead fuse and delivery system; considering the distance from which a weapon is launched; and the angle and timing of the attack all potentially affect the level of civilian harm inflicted. These new practices and policies when implemented strengthen adherence to the principles of proportionality, precaution and distinction. These practices and policies should be shared with armed actors and adjusted to different theatres and capabilities. 
Summing up the topic, the relationship between civilian casualties and violent incidents in Afghanistan is characterized by three important facts: (1) there is a positive relationship between civilian casualties and levels of future violence in an area and that relationship is much stronger for NATO-caused civilian casualties. (2) Civilian casualties affect the long-run trends in violence, not short-term fluctuations. (3) The relationship between civilian casualties and violence does not appear to spill over district boundaries.
Preventing civilian casualties is a critical challenge before the Afghan government and the NATO forces. This has put the Afghan government and the international community under mounting pressures and criticisms of the people, Human Rights Organizations and Human Rights activists. It acts as a catalyst to help the insurgents to recruit from the communities as their anger and dissatisfaction grows against the government and the international community.  The last but not the least, in closing, as much as we wish we could completely eliminates civilian casualties from warfare, or warfare all together, it is ultimately impossible. Even with the most advanced technology available. However, it can be minimized and all the measures shall be taken to put it in practice.