New York, Concerned over continuing civilian casualties in the airstrikes by the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a leading human rights watchdog has criticised them for major 'collateral damage' and asked to fix the issue.
HRW: "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." (AFP photo)
In a 43-page report, "Troops in Contact: Airstrikes and Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan", released yesterday, estimates that in 2006, at least 929 Afghan civilians were killed in the fighting.
Of these, 699 died during Taliban attacks (including suicide bombings and other bombings unlawfully targeting civilians) while at least 230 in US or NATO attacks.
It also criticised the "poor response" by US officials when civilian deaths occur." Prior to conducting investigations into airstrikes causing civilian loss, US officials often immediately deny responsibility for civilian deaths or place all blame on the Taliban, the report stated.
Warning that such incidents erode the confidence of people in both the government and international forces, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said more civilian casualties occured during rapid response operations than planned airstrike on the Taliban targets.
In 2007, at least 1,633 Afghan civilians were killed in the armed conflict. Of those, some 950 died during attacks by the various insurgent forces, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Whereas, a total of 321 were killed by the US or NATO airstrikes. Thus, civilian deaths from US and NATO airstrikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007, it said.
In the first seven months of 2008, as many as 540 Afghan civilians were killed. At least 367 of them died during attacks by the various insurgent forces and 173 during US or NATO attacks, the report said.