WASHINGTON/KABUL, Mar 17, 2011 (IPS) - The number of civilians killed in U.S. Special Operations
Forces (SOF) raids last year was probably several times higher
than the figure of 80 people cited in the U.N. report on
civilian casualties in Afghanistan published last week, an IPS
investigation has revealed.
The report also failed to apply the same humanitarian law
standard for defining a civilian to its reporting on SOF
raids that it applied to its accounting for Taliban
The Mar. 9 report, produced by the Human Rights unit of the
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
jointly with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights
Commission (AIHRC), said a total of 80 civilians were killed
in "search and seizure operations" by "Pro-Government
Forces" in 2010.
But AIHRC Commissioner Nader Nadery told IPS the figure
represented only the number of civilian deaths in night
raids in the 13 incidents involving SOF units that the
Commission had been able to investigate thoroughly.
Nadery said the AIHRC had received complaints from local
people alleging civilian casualties in 60 additional
incidents involving raids and other activities by Special
Forces. "We did not include them in the report, because we
were unable to collect the exact figures for casualties,
which takes time," Nadery said.
The AIHRC is continuing to investigate those 60 events,
according to Nadery, and will report on the results in the
The Mar. 9 report refers to "60 incidents of night raids
that caused civilian casualties", but does not inform the
reader that only a fraction of the total casualties alleged
in those incidents were counted in the total.
At least one of the 13 incidents investigated by the AIHRC
was an air strike called by an SOF unit. The 80 deaths from
at most 12 incidents or less would suggest an average of at
least seven civilians killed per incident.
If the sample of
night raids investigated is representative of the total of
60 incidents of SOF night raids about which civilian
casualty complaints were generated, the total number of
civilians killed would be around 420.
The UNAMA-AIHRC report shows a total 406 killings of
civilians by "Anti-Government Elements" reported for 2010.
But the UNAMA-AIHRC report uses a strict humanitarian law
definition of "civilian" in regard to victims of
assassination by "Anti-Government Elements" which was not
applied to victims of U.S. night raids.
"If Afghan soldiers traveling from one place to another, on holiday, with no
weapon and no uniform, are killed, we count them as
civilians, and the same with policemen," Nadery told IPS.
Mayors and district chiefs, who participate in military
planning with NATO military commanders, were also considered
civilian victims of assassination, according to Nadery.
A large proportion of those killed as "Taliban" in SOF night
raids, however, would also qualify as civilians under this
Matthew Hoh, formerly the senior U.S. foreign service
officer in Zabul province before his 2009 resignation, was
familiar with the target list for SOF kill or capture raids.
He told IPS the list included Afghans holding every kind of
non-combat function in the Taliban network, including
propagandists and workers who make Improvised Explosive