Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Taliban Show no Concern about Civilian Casualties

Afghan nation and state as well as the international community have been concerned about the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, inflicted by the Taliban militants within almost two decades. Although the Afghan government and ordinary people have called on the Taliban militants on multiple occasions to reduce violence, the Taliban continued their deadly attacks.
Taliban leaders and military commanders said that military imperatives take precedence. The Taliban are unlikely to take precautions to protect civilians and their assets if doing so would inhibit their ability to achieve their military objectives. “The general attitude is that if Taliban fighters are putting their lives at risk for the sake of Islam, then civilians should also make sacrifices”. The Taliban will not halt their operations regardless of the facts that if civilian homes, schools, mosques, and hospitals are in danger.
The Taliban established a military commission in 2013 to investigate civilian casualties, which was integrated into the Commission for Prevention of Civilian Casualties and Inquiry of Complaints (PCCIC) in 2017 so as to directly reports to the “rahbari shura” (leadership council).
The Taliban sent their delegations to the areas under their control to register complaints against their fighters and military commanders. However, the main reason was to find out the local perception about the Taliban and institute greater control over their fighters, said Ashley Jackson, an associate researcher with the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group at King’s College London, and Rahmatullah Amiri, a senior researcher and analyst with The Liaison Office, in their research about the Taliban. They add that although Afghan locals optimistically believed that the mechanism would improve the Taliban accountability. But their hopes were shattered since civilians faced retribution for complaining and their complaints were not addressed.
The locals were cited as saying that the Taliban arrested several people who complained against the Taliban’s indiscriminate attacks and were charged of collaborating with the Afghan government. According to them, allegations were fabricated as a pretense for retaliation and the local Taliban intimidated others who complained.
The Taliban do not have a clear definition of civilians. For example, till 2009, the government teachers were considered as legitimate target. Later, the Taliban said that teachers should not be targeted.
The Taliban also committed perfidy and used civilians as cover for military operations on several occasions. For example, they carried out operations pretending to be farmers, which also led to the casualties of some farmers.
Based on general beliefs, the Taliban were the main reason behind civilian casualties. The Taliban believe that civilian casualties is the unavoidable part of “jihad” and people should not complain.
In some cases, however, the Taliban urged for preventing civilian casualties. Their statement on the 2011 spring offensive instructed fighters that “strict attention must be paid to the protection and safety of civilians during the spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan.” In 2016, an Eid statement instructed fighters to “prevent civilian casualties, maintain justice and win hearts and minds of people; instruct them from time to time about people’s rights and dignity”.
Practically, however, they turned a blind eye to the civilian casualties and the graph of fatalities has been as high as ever.
Whenever the Taliban call on their fighters to prevent civilian casualties, they follow two objectives: For the one, the Taliban pursue international recognition and try to show international organizations that they care about civilian casualties. Second, the Taliban intend to show to Afghan people and they are concerned about civilian casualties and seek not to target them.
If the Taliban are really concerned about civilian casualties, they have to reduce their violence, which has been urged by Afghan nation and state as well as their US interlocutors. For instance, Afghan Peace Marchers called on the Taliban to declare ceasefire and Afghan representatives in a Loya Jirga, held before the presidential election, to reduce violence, the Taliban turned a deaf ear to all the demands for reduction of violence or declaration of truce.
To not mention the soldiers, a number of Afghan non-combatants lose their lives on day-to-day basis and the Taliban are one of the largest murderers of the non-combatants. They spill the blood of civilians, including women and children, without an iota of mercy.
The ongoing talks between the Taliban and US representatives could not mitigate violence and conflict in the country. Reduction of violence and prevention of civilian casualties are urged not only by the Taliban interlocutors but also by the Afghan government and people. That is, reduction of violence is debated hotly at the negotiating table and the Taliban have to accept it if they care about civilian casualties.