Afghanistan Hot Docs: Civilian Casualties Rising but Many Victims Receive No Help From Military

Today's selection of timely reports.

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Afghan Civilian Casualties Rise: Afghan civilian deaths rose to 2,118 last year, a jump of almost 40 percent from 2007, when 1,523 were killed. The statistics, compiled in a report by the human-rights unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, find that 55 percent of the deaths, or 1,160, were caused by antigovernment forces and 39 percent, or 828 deaths, were caused by pro-government forces. The bulk of the civilian deaths caused by pro-government forces resulted from airstrikes, which accounted for 64 percent. The overwhelming majority of deaths by antigovernment forces, 85 percent, came from suicide bombings or improvised explosive devices. Attacks on schools and other educational facilities, especially those for girls, increased 24 percent, from 236 incidents in 2007 to 293 last year. The report, "Afghanistan: Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2008," notes that the number of civilian deaths is the highest recorded since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

But Help Not Forthcoming: Many civilian victims of the Afghan conflict receive no help from international forces, a report by the nonprofit Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict concludes. "Since the initial U.S. invasion in 2001, the lack of a clear, coordinated strategy to address civilian losses has been a leading source of anger and resentment toward military forces." The report, "Losing the People: the Costs and Consequences of Civilian Suffering in Afghanistan," finds that Afghan views of international forces are dominated by anger and resentment over civilian casualties and property loss, that victim assistance is possible and expected by the Afghan population, and that efforts to help civilian victims must be "more proactive, fully funded, and better coordinated." The CIVIC researchers, who spent most of last year in Afghanistan, interviewed 143 civilians harmed by the conflict and more than 80 officials working in Afghanistan.