A Human Rights Watch reports says that rapid respond air strikes have caused high civilian casualties and is fueling a public backlash in Afghanistan.
“Rapid response air strikes have meant higher civilian casualties, while every bomb dropped in populated areas amplifies the chance of a mistake,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch in the 43-page report.
“Mistakes by the US and NATO have dramatically decreased public support for the Afghan government and the presence of international forces providing security to Afghans,” report added.
The report also indicates that civilian deaths in Afghanistan from US and NATO air strikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007.
In 2006, at least 929 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting related to the armed conflict. Of those, at least 699 died during Taliban attacks (including suicide bombings and other bombings unlawfully targeting civilians) and at least 230 died during US or NATO attacks.
Of the latter, 116 were killed by US or NATO air strikes. In 2007, at least 1,633 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting related to the armed conflict.
Of those, some 950 died during attacks by the various insurgent forces, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda. At least 321 were killed by US or NATO air strikes. Thus, civilian deaths from US and NATO air strikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007.
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Human Rights Watch criticized the poor response by US officials when civilian deaths occur.
Prior to conducting investigations into air strikes causing civilian loss, US officials often immediately deny responsibility for civilian deaths or place all blame on the Taliban, the reports says.
US investigations conducted have been unilateral, ponderous, and lacking in transparency, undercutting rather than improving relations with local populations and the Afghan government.