WASHINGTON - October 20 - Following news of civilian deaths resulting from NATO military actions in the south and west of Afghanistan, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) today expressed sympathy for the families of those killed and called on NATO to develop a system to aid civilians harmed by its operations there.
At least ten Afghan civilians - including women and children - were killed as they slept early yesterday morning in the southern town of Ashogho, according to Agence France Presse. In a separate incident, eleven civilians died in an air raid on Taliban forces in the west. According to CIVIC, the lack of any official program to help civilians harmed by NATO's International Security Assistance Force severely damages ISAF's credibility with the Afghan people, putting its mission at risk.
"When civilians are harmed, NATO countries should dignify their suffering with tangible expressions of respect," said CIVIC's executive director Sarah Holewinski. "The US is an example of progress on this front and is rightly working to develop ways to foster goodwill and mitigate resentment among Afghan war victims." The Leahy Fund administered through USAID has appropriated $3 million this year alone to help rebuild communities harmed by Coalition actions. The U.S. military also makes condolence payments to families suffering losses from its operations. CIVIC today urged NATO leaders to immediately pledge the development of similar mechanisms to assist and dignify losses for surviving family members of incidents caused by ISAF operations.
"If NATO doesn't find a way to win the trust and support of the Afghan people - the Taliban will," said Holewinski. "In fact, they already are." CIVIC has documented the Taliban's use of aid to win hearts and minds since the 2001 invasion. "If part of your strategic goal is to gain the support of the local population, then developing a way to recognize their suffering is public relations 101."
CIVIC is a Washington-based organization founded by the late Marla Ruzicka, a passionate humanitarian killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad while advocating for war victims in Iraq. CIVIC believes that civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and aided by the governments involved, and is working toward smart, compassionate policies for civilians caught in the crossfire of conflict.