Civilian Casualties are Causing the War in the First Place: Rethinking Afghanistan, Pt. 4

Part Four of Rethinking Afghanistan, directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, covering the issue of civilian casualties.

A new study by America’s National Bureau for Economic Research looking at the circumstances around 4,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan found a high correlation between NATO killing of even two civilians in an area and a spike of attacks on NATO and US troops. It turns out that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s much-maligned stricter rules of engagement, especially limitations on blunt air strikes, actually likely reduced the number of attacks. Gen. David Petraeus is said to be considering altering the ROE.

There is only one way to interpret the NBER report, which is that President Obama was wrong to escalate the Afghanistan war, since US and NATO war-fighting, which inevitably causes civilian deaths, is actually ratcheting up the war. A heavy footprint and more NATO operations likely will create the monster Washington fears, a growing insurgency, rather than ‘blunting the momentum’ of the ‘Taliban’ as Obama and Petreaus hope.

The Afghan Human Rights Monitor recently issued a report on civilian casualties in the first half of 2010. AFP summarized key findings:

‘ About 1,074 civilians were killed and more than 1,500 injured in war-related incidents in the first six months of 2010, compared with 1,059 killed in the same period last year, ARM said. “Up to 1,200 security incidents were recorded in June, the highest number of incidents compared to any month since 2002,” it said. . . In a breakdown of parties to blame for civilian deaths, ARM says 61 percent were caused by insurgents, 30 percent by US, NATO and Afghan forces, six percent by “criminals and private security firms”, with three percent unknown.

The full report in pdf format is here

See also their report, “Children Suffered the Brunt of War Casualties in 2009″

Aljazeera English has a recent report on rising children and adult Afghan casualties:

and here is Rethinking Afghanistan pt. 4:

4 Responses

  1. Juan, since June 1st, about 89% of all known civilian casualties were caused by the Taliban. Do you think this is causing a surge in Pashtun recruits for the ANA and ANP?

    Usually in the Winter, the ANA cannot fit all recruits into its training slots, resulting in a waiting list. During harvest season, however, the number of ANA recruits fall below training slots. This year for the first time in a couple years, even in harvest season, ANA recruiting has exceeded training slots. This is one reason the ANA has risen from about 95 thousand in 11-2009 to 134 thousand in 7-2010.

    Personally, I think the correlation between civilian casualties and recruitment in the ANA, ANP, Taliban and Pakistani Army is uncertain. It seems like neither the ANA, ANP, Taliban nor Pakistani Army have any trouble finding Pashtuns eager to join them and fight. The ANA, Taliban and Pakistani Army all have fighting cultures.

    The main impediment for all parties seems to be funding and training slots. All sides are flushed with funding this year. All sides, except for maybe the Pakistani Army, pay their Pashtun recruits a decent wage. Until the Taliban funding can be limited, there seems to be no shortage of Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns eager to join them and get paid. Similarly, the ANA seems to be able to recruit an unlimited number of Pashtuns provided the ANA has the money to pay them.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to limit Taliban funding?

  2. Anand, since December, at least a third or so of all civilian deaths have been caused by NATO and it was much higher before Gen. McChrystal’s ROE. That is some 300 innocent civilians. If the deaths occured in small numbers here and there, you could be talking over 100 districts where locals struck back and thereby joined the insurgency. The air strikes before McChrystal certainly helped get the insurgency going, as did poorly conceived search and destroy missions. That the Taliban reprisals also kill locals, and more of them, is not relevant to this point.

    • The latest UN report on civilian casualties finds that the Taliban causes a larger higher ratio of Taliban to GIRoA casualties than the report you cite.

      What is interesting about the latest reports on civilian casualties is that 16% of them are caused by ANSF/ISAF driving accidents. 6% by air strikes. This is one reason for the huge recent emphasis by ANATC, MoI and NTM-A on improving ANSF driver training. Similarly, ISAF is pushing for better driving among its forces.

      After an airstrike, now ANSF and ISAF will remain at the scene for some time, explaining what happened and why. ANSF commanding generals, ISAF commanding generals, and GIRoA leaders will visit the families of the bereaved and ask forgiveness. Under Pushtunwalla it is hard for the families to turn down these requests for forgiveness.

      By contrast, after traffic accidents, ANP often run away. There are many negative examples with respect to ISAF as well. Commanding ANSF and ISAF generals do not always visit the bereaved families and ask for forgiveness. This causes a lot of anger and resentment. Much more so than air strikes, probably. If you noticed, McChrystal emphasized improved driving and post accident remediation more than he emphasized air strikes in his directives to ISAF troops. [Which is also an indirect plea to the ANSF to do the same.]

      How you deal with casualties after they happen is in many ways more important in terms of the immediate local response than the number of civilian casualties.

      If you exclude the terrorist attacks conducted by Sirrajuddin Haqqani and his proxy allies TTP, TNSM and LeT, the Taliban and GIRoA/ISAF might kill a similar number of civilians. By some estimates, as much as 75% of all Afghan civilian casualties are caused by them. Although Siraj advocates insists that Mullah Omar centric QST is behind more casualties, especially due to I.E.Ds.

      I think civilian casualties might have a smaller immediate affect on kinetic operations than you think. However, it probably does affect local population interactions with ANP, ANA, ISAF, and Taliban militias. It might affect the number of anonymous cell phone tips that each party receives. Over time, this is important, especially longer run. However, short term kinetics is another matter.

      The Taliban and ANA and ANP capacity for short term kinetics is driven by their funding, their training cycle capacity, their NCOs and officers, their embedded combat advisors [foreign Taliban in the case of the Taliban, ISAF in the case of ANSF] and their logistics. If any of the parties get more money, they can hire more locals to fight alongside them.

      Why do you think a Pashtun joins the ANA, ANP, or Taliban? To collect a pay check, or because the other side has killed civilians? How could you tell?

      Many Taliban militias pay their soldiers, NCOs and officers better than the ANSF does. And their flow of money, logistics [artillery, RPGs, explosives, annumnition, food and water], leaders and embedded combat advisors [foreign Taliban] seems to be surging. On the flip side, the same is true of the ANA and ANP, with surging recruitment [with albeit severely shortened training cycles], funding, logistics [many new combat service support battalions, plus access to ISAF logistics], ISAF advisors, and ISAF combat enablers.

      The GIRoA allied forces, Taliban allied forces, and Pakistani Army all remain deeply dependent of funding, logistics and leadership.

      To change the topic, Juan, why do you think ANSF Pashtun recruitment in Eastern, Northern and Western Afghanistan is so strong, while ANSF Pashtun recruitment in the South is so much weaker? Some might argue that this is because of the large role played by foreign Taliban in the east and north, as well as Taliban terrorist attacks [which tend to happen in Kabul, the North and East], as well as the Mullah Omar centric’s relative popularity in the South.

      What is your opinion?

  3. I would be happy with a .89 I might not be able to retire on it, but it would pay off all my bills plus some..:) I would guess however that the removing of the zeros has nothing to do with the US Dollar rate, but more with the value in Iraq. For example if a Big Mac costs 4000 Dinars now, That same two all beef patty fat pill will cost 4 Dinars tomorrow. So if you have 1,000,000 Dinar. It will now be worth 1000 Dinar ( spending power ) If they then RV at $3, well we won’t all be telling our bosses where to go..:) The key I think is they said ” seeking to cancel confirmed zeros “. I don’t know what they mean by “confirmed”. Anyone know how much a Big Mac is in Iraq?..lol
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