They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Senlis Council

Aerial Bombings Deepen the Humanitarian Crisis of Local Population

Nobody knows exactly how many civilians have been killed by bombs dropped by the international community. Given that ‘official’ casualty figures vary widely from source to source, there is a clear need for a transparent and accurate method to keep track of the civilian deaths caused by the international community in Afghanistan. As well as being extremely varied, these official statistics are much lower than the figures cited by Afghan civilians in southern Afghanistan. The lack of reliable official sources for these important figures is playing directly into the hands of the Taliban. Anti-government elements are capitalising on the international community’s ambiguity on the subject. Local and official estimates of the number of Afghans killed and wounded in NATO’s air strikes differ widely. According to research carried out in southern Afghanistan on officially acknowledged civilian deaths-causing bombings, approximately 270 civilians have been killed and another 61 wounded. However, given the problems with accessing bomb sites in the region and the resulting paucity of data, it is likely that the real total is much higher. Locals have reported that in southern Afghanistan, between 2,000 and 3,000 civilians have been killed this year. This figure tallies with those in a recent report from Afghan Government’s Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, as well as those of a prominent human rights group, which indicate that nearly 5,000 Afghans have been killed in ‘insurgency related violence’ this year, of which over 1,000 were civilians. According to NATO, aerial bombing of southern Afghanistan has resulted in approximately 3,000 Taliban and insurgents fatalities in 2006. Yet this ‘achievement’ has failed to impact positively on the wider conflict situation in the region and guarantee the security of ground troops. Instead, the international community has added a terrifying new dimension to the lives of Afghans in southern Afghanistan. By being given no other choice from its civilian leaders, NATO’s bombing of southern Afghanistan has significantly escalated the horror and terror of Afghans to the extent that suicide bombings are now seen by many as an acceptable form of retaliation. Despite widely publicised figures of Taliban casualties, the relevance of body count remains questionable, primarily because the distinction between civilian and Taliban insurgent casualties is often unclear. As the following diagram illustrates, the term ‘Taliban’ is now being used as a catch-all term for many other groups who would otherwise consider themselves and each other as ‘civilian’ groups.

Who is the Taliban?