NATO must put protection of civilians at the heart of Afghanistan ‘transition’ strategy, warn aid agencies
2010 is already the deadliest year in a decade for civilians, but risks could increase unless NATO takes immediate action
International military forces must take urgent steps to protect civilians caught up in the escalating conflict as they plan for the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan government, warned leading aid agencies today.
The call comes as NATO leaders gather for a major summit in Lisbon on 19-20 November where they are expected to discuss the transition plan drawn up by US General Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan.
29 international and national aid agencies including Oxfam, Afghanaid and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, have released a new report – Nowhere to Turn – which urges NATO to do more to improve the training and monitoring of Afghan national security forces during the transition period.
"A grave risk of widespread abuses"
Ashley Jackson, head of policy for Oxfam in Afghanistan, said:
"Transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces faces enormous obstacles. There is a grave risk of widespread abuses by the national security forces, which can range from theft and extortion to torture and indiscriminate killing of civilians. NATO member states, who train, advise, fund, and arm those forces, share responsibility for making sure this does not happen, but so far we have seen little action on the ground."
The report notes that Afghan soldiers and police are poorly trained and command systems are weak. It says that there are no effective mechanisms for registering community complaints and that civilian deaths caused by Afghan forces are not adequately investigated or tracked. The report calls on NATO to rectify this as a key part of its transition strategy.
Nader Nadery, Commissioner for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said:
"Recent revelations of abuses by Iraqi security forces and militia – and the fact that we are already seeing abusive behavior by militias in Afghanistan – should be sounding a warning bell. There is still time to get the right controls in place in Afghanistan. But NATO must act now."
NATO must stop arming local militias
The agencies argue NATO should abandon dangerous schemes such as the so-called "community defense initiatives", which involve supporting local militia groups to fight the Taliban.
They say that the international forces must immediately stop arming these community militias. Recruits are barely vetted, receive little training and are often accountable only to the local commanders. Far from helping to stabilise the country, they are likely to contribute to the growing instability.
2010 is already the deadliest year for Afghan civilians since 2001, with civilian casualties up 31 percent in the first six months alone. Security is rapidly deteriorating across the country with even the previously stable north reporting a 136 percent rise in civilian deaths.
A sharp rise in civilian casualties
Anti-government groups cause most Afghan civilian casualties. However, the report warns that while NATO forces have taken steps to reduce the direct harm their operations cause to civilians, their military tactics are continuing to put Afghan lives at risk. A key factor behind NATO's reduction in direct civilian casualties is the decrease in the use of airstrikes since 2009. However, the agencies warn that there is a risk that such casualties may now increase as there has been a dramatic rise in airstrikes in recent months.
"More civilians are being killed and injured than ever before and Afghanistan is more insecure than at any time in the past nine years. We are concerned that unless urgent steps are taken now, the violence will continue to escalate in 2011 and civilian suffering will only increase," said Farhana Faruqi-Stocker of Afghanaid.
Download the report: Nowhere to Turn: The Failure to Protect Civilians in Afghanistan (pdf, 1.6MB)
View the slideshow: The cost of war in Afghanistan
Watch the video: What Afghans want
Learn more: Oxfam's humanitarian work in Afghanistan
Notes to Editors
- Signatories to the report are ACSF, ACTED, Action Aid, ADA, Afgana, Afghanaid, AIHRC, AMI, AWN, AWSDC, CAFOD, CHA, Christian Aid, CIVIC, CoAR, Cordaid, CPAU, DACAAR, HRRAC, Ibn Sina, ICCO, INTERSOS, NRC, Open Society Foundation, Oxfam, Peace Direct, SMO, Tearfund, War Child UK.
- The report focuses specifically on the impact of security strategies on Afghan civilians. As humanitarian organizations, the signatories to the report Nowhere to Turn cannot comment on the effectiveness of security strategies in achieving their intended military objectives.
- NATO has command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which operates in Afghanistan under the mandate provided by UN Security Council resolutions 1386 (2001), 1510 (2003), 1868 (2009) and other resolutions.
For more information and interviews with the coordinating author of the report, Ashley Jackson, please contact:
- Louise Hancock, Media and Comms, Oxfam, +93 (0) 700 294 364, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scandalous: $18.5 trillion hidden in #taxhavens = $156bn lost in revenue which could help fight poverty http://t.co/8cc9k6F9d6 #taxdodging6 hours 30 min ago
Apple under scrutiny for #taxdodging, shows “unbelievable chutzpah.” http://t.co/XIL06OCU1A @nytimes #taxhavens12 hours 58 min ago
#Lille France-UK #Transparency Conference: Follow our @benphillips76 @LucLampriere @HannahStoddart. See also @pcanfin #landgrabs #taxdodging14 hours 51 min ago
Pls consider donating to our #SyriaCrisis Appeal. $10 covers basic needs items for 1 person for a month http://t.co/HtJ1uzYBpa15 hours 2 min ago
UN has now registered +1.3m #refugees. One of them, Leka'a, has kindly shared her v personal story w us http://t.co/TQHewOBFIc #SyriaCrisis15 hours 35 min ago
#Hunger will be the face of the future without govt & aid policy reform http://t.co/ryFcadlsXF MT @TR_Foundation via @katymigiro17 hours 11 min ago
RT @OxfamEAfrica: The great @Oxfam team at the #AUSummit this week - @mynassah @ShuksG @MuleyaM @JMwanjisi @NicholasNgigi @assodesire @Ja…17 hours 36 min ago
#Cyclone Mahasen: we're working with #Bangladesh govt & other agencies to assess needs http://t.co/I1orTbX0HJ #humanitarian18 hours 30 min ago
RT @oxfamgbpress: The most fearless women on earth http://t.co/72kW0cBMdW via @Fabulousmag includes an Afghan woman who works with @Oxfam18 hours 49 min ago
#India communities most affected by #climate change learning to adapt using #renewable energy http://t.co/QuNn1H8MDe #resilience19 hours 35 sec ago
Disasters happen but the #inequality of risk is no accident. Our new report on #resilience http://t.co/XDMrZ3eK7r #climate20 hours 15 sec ago
No accident millions at risk 2 disasters: Fundamental shift needed in power/politics http://t.co/NgcQrVEFfy #climate #inequality #resilience20 hours 24 min ago
More on the global land rush: @Global_Witness report on logging in #Cambodia http://t.co/2G6Qm7vHgx @TheEconomist #landgrabs22 hours 47 min ago
How to avoid 'sustainability fatigue': short hit-list for business leaders via @GuardianSustBiz http://t.co/GavVllQYkw #susdev23 hours 46 min ago
RT @revenuewatch: New @Oxfam post explains what works in the fight against #corruption! http://t.co/1nF9FWykjL via @fp2p1 day 11 hours ago