The International Security Assistance Force welcomes the 2013 Annual Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Report released today by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
While we recognize that one harmed civilian is one too many, we are encouraged that the report reflects the comprehensive measures we take to avoid civilian casualties and diminish the threat of explosive remnants of war.
The report once again highlights that in 2013, insurgents caused the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties. The Taliban are responsible for nearly 90 percent of all civilian casualties, according to ISAF statistics.
Their indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices and attacks on coalition and Afghan National Security Forces from civilian homes and compounds are a grave violation of international law. The Taliban continue to attack mosques and healthcare facilities, they target schools by burning them down, emplacing IEDs near them, and occupying them for insurgent activities. These persistent actions, including increased violence against women and religious elders, demonstrate the Taliban’s continuing disregard for human life and detract from Afghan and international community efforts to improve Afghanistan’s future.
According to ISAF figures, civilians killed and wounded by coalition forces declined by 60 percent in 2013. Civilian casualties resulting from airstrikes declined even further, down 80% from 2012 to 2013. These reductions are a direct result of ISAF’s commitment to enforcing strict operational discipline to avoid engagements that could result in civilian casualties. ISAF also conducts a Civilian Casualty Avoidance and Mitigation Board that reviews civilian casualties to determine causal factors and actions that can be taken to reduce civilian casualties even further. We will continue to ensure operations and activities meet our moral and legal obligations to protect Afghan citizens.
ISAF’s training mission includes instilling a culture of civilian casualty reduction within Afghan security ministries and the Afghan National Security Forces. We strive to minimize civilian casualties in all aspects of operational planning and counter-improvised explosive device detection and clearance. ISAF has trained more than 7,500 ANSF, to include trainers, in Counter-IED Awareness and IED Defeat and Disposal, which has directly contributed to the reduction in civilian casualties.
Throughout 2014, we will work with our Afghan partners to ensure we continue to take all actions necessary to reduce civilian casualties. Protecting Afghan civilians is the cornerstone of ISAF’s mission.