VII. Recommendations

To the United States and NATO:

  • Institute immediate and transparent investigations when civilians are killed in airstrikes and publicly report the results when investigations are complete.

  • Create an officer-level position or office charged with monitoring, investigating, and publicly reporting on all incidents of civilian casualties that works directly with the Afghan government to ensure accurate accountability.

  • Provide accurate information on civilian casualties in military operations. Accept responsibility for civilian deaths and injuries as soon as possible, while refraining from denying responsibility for civilian loss until an after-battle investigation can be conducted.

  • Take responsibility for civilian casualties when that is warranted and take appropriate disciplinary or criminal action against those responsible.

  • Create an independent group of experts in partnership with the Afghan government to investigate civilian deaths in combat operations.

  • Ensure air attacks comply with the legal obligation to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to the civilian population.

  • Set up liaison officers to clarify chains of command to improve communications between different forces such as between Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and NATO special operations personnel and with Afghan National Army and Afghan police forces.

  • Increase the size of the current liaison office between NATO and US Special Operations Forces.

  • Provide timely and adequate compensation to victims of airstrikes. Create a unitary system that includes both OEF and NATO forces. Consider a system administered by UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan) and monitored by the AIHRC (Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission). Any such effort should maintain its own funding stream from contributing states so that it does not compete with development or other projects and no casualty falls through the cracks.80

  • To the United States:

  • Adopt measures to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties in “Troops in Contact” (TIC) situations. Airstrikes should not be carried out without an adequate Collateral Damage Estimate (CDE); trained Joint Terminal Air Controllers (JTACs) should be involved in all TIC airstrikes; and there should be no strikes in densely populated areas unless the intelligence is highly reliable, the target has been visually identified.

  • Thoroughly investigate the collateral damage and battle damage assessment processes to determine how they can be improved to reduce civilian casualties, and implement appropriate changes.

  • Use precision-guided low-collateral-damage munitions whenever possible, especially on targets in populated areas.

  • Adopt ROE with NATO that are consistent to ensure that differences in ROE do not result in unnecessary civilian casualties.

  • Ensure JTAC training regarding civilian casualties and field Collateral Damage Estimates are adequate.

  • Ensure all strike aircraft have low-collateral-damage bombs available at all times to minimize the potential for collateral damage.

  • Work with NATO to develop a uniform post-incident humanitarian assistance fund.

  • To the government of Afghanistan:

  • Create a governmental body to investigate civilian casualties in cooperation with an independent group of experts with the capacity to perform these investigations in accordance with international norms.

  • Provide Afghan liaison personnel between NATO/US forces on the ground and their Afghan sources to minimize confusion.

  • To the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other opposition armed groups:

  • Cease using civilians as shields.

  • Take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attack, including avoiding placing military objectives within or near densely populated areas.

  • Stop feigning civilian status during attacks. Members of the Taliban and other insurgent groups should not pretend to be civilians to gain military advantage while carrying out attacks. Feigning civilian status puts civilians at heightened risk of attack during hostilities. Anti-government forces who seek to carry out attacks on military targets can use “ruses of war,” including camouflage, decoys, mock operations, and misinformation, but they must not present themselves as civilians.

  • Affirm commitments to follow international humanitarian law. Anti-government forces should publicly affirm their commitment to follow established rules of the laws of war, including prohibitions against targeting civilians, using indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, attacking with the primary intent to cause terror among civilians, and feigning civilian status to gain a military advantage.

  • 80 Two such compensation programs already exist and barring an ISAF-wide claims system, they should be robustly supported by NATO member states. At the end of 2006, the Netherlands helped create the Post-Operations Humanitarian Relief Fund (POHRF) to provide emergency relief following ISAF military operations that affect civilians. It is managed by COM ISAF and supported through voluntary country contributions. As of March 2008, Australia (€315,375), Bulgaria (€35,000), the Czech Republic (€178,221), Estonia (€124,895), Lithuania (€28,962), Netherlands (€300,000), Iceland (€100,000), Finland (€100,000), and the United States (US$2 million) had contributed. The funds can be requested by commanders immediately before or after an operation, but they must be linked to losses caused by an ISAF operation. The United States created the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program (ACAP), a humanitarian aid program that provides long-term livelihood assistance for families who have suffered losses due to international troop activities, including indirect losses from, for example, a suicide bomb targeting international troops. Since 2003, the US Congress has donated US$34 million, including a US$10 million appropriation in December 2007. Both of these programs would be much more effective if they enjoyed broader support. Seventeen NATO members have thus far not donated to POHRF and only the United States supports ACAP.