UNAMA's latest one-sided Report on Civilian Casualties
15 March 2016
By Dr Hameedullah
In its latest Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, the
UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stated that the number of
civilian casualties in Afghanistan during 2015 were the highest recorded. The
Report documented 11,002 civilian casualties (3,545 deaths and 7,457 injured)
The Report shows a 4 percent increase during 2015 over the 2014 level which
was until now the highest recorded level of civilian casualties since 2009.
The report attributed the highest number of civilian casualties to ground
engagements, followed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and complex
The Report goes further by attributing 62 percent of all civilian casualties
to anti-Government Elements – a 10 percent decrease from the previous year. It
attributed 17 percent of the casualties to pro-Government armed groups – an
increase from the year prior. Furthermore the Report stated that another 17
percent of the casualties could not be attributed to any specific party.
According to the Report ground engagements between parties to the conflict
accounted for 37 percent of the civilian casualties; IEDs caused 21 percent,
complex attacks caused a further 17 percent; deliberate targeting amounted to
13 percent, while air operations resulted in 3 percent of the documented
The Report takes a deliberately partial approach by describing the actions of
anti-regime forces as the deliberate targeting of civilians while obscuring
regime actions in the jargon of collateral damage. UNAMA also accused the
Islamic Emirate of attacking and threatening the educational sector,
particularly girls' educational infrastructure.
The Islamic Emirate's spokesman labelled this report as partial propaganda
compiled at the behest of occupying forces. Zabihullah Mujahid further
observed that civilian casualties can never be prevented through such biased
reporting and ‘only encourages the irresponsibility' of the Kabul regime and
their foreign backers.
It is worthwhile to state that the Islamic Emirate has consistently called on
UNAMA to vigorously check their sources and facts and give all parties an
opportunity to rebut accusations before publishing such reports yet UNAMA
persistently fails to heed such calls. UNAMA lacks the will power to visit the
affected areas and cross-examine these allegations. Rather their only sources
of information are the American Embassy in Kabul and the ministries of Kabul
How can we then expect such an institution to thoroughly investigate claims of
civilian casualties and publish impartial and proportionate reports?
Let us take this recent report as an example. The report alleges that 37
percent of the civilian casualties were caused as a result of ground
engagements. Clearly specifying the responsible party in such engagements is
one of the most difficult tasks of all. To fairly apportion blame in such an
engagement would require a thorough investigation involving the examination of
the territory where such incidents occur as well as interviewing the victims
or those close to the victims at the time of the incident. Moreover, defining
the actions of the responsible party as accidental or deliberate would require
communication with the belligerent parties before reaching a judgment on their
UNAMA has failed to carry out any of these steps. They refuse to visit many of
the outlying theatres of conflict and when they do visit or contact the
victims they are often escorted by regime forces or foreign troops which
undermines the very notion of a fair and impartial investigation.
On the other hand, the report only attributes 3 percent of the civilian
casualties to air operations. To anyone that has ever visited the conflict
areas during active engagements this figure would appear comical since the
vast majority of casualties during regime operations are caused by
indiscriminate air bombardment coupled with large scale mortar and artillery
shelling. This discrepancy between the ground events and the 3 percent
apportioning can only be described by speculating that either UNAMA takes all
NATO and regime claims regarding casualties prima facie or else they are too
afraid to report the true damage caused by aerial operations.
If UNAMA truly wishes to reduce the number of civilian casualties and bring
the perpetrators of such actions to justice then they should accept the
Islamic Emirate's proposal to set up a joint committee that will freely visit
both insurgent-controlled and regime-controlled areas in order to conduct
extensive investigations of civilian casualties and judiciously identify the
party responsible. As an additional step UNAMA should also provide a copy of
such reports to the Islamic Emirate's Department for the Prevention of
Civilian Casualties so as to give them an opportunity to answer the
allegations against them before deciding to publish such reports.
Failing such reasonable steps, with a deep heart, it must be said, that the
war will continue unabated, civilians with continue to suffer their plight,
and the real perpetrators of these crimes against humanity with continue to
slaughter with impunity.