NATO Dramatically Underreports How Many Civilians It Has Killed

Afghan Govt Threatens Referendum if NATO Doesn't Stop Killing Civilians

NATO spokesman James Appathurai told reporters today that the international forces were responsible for killing 97 Afghan civilians in 2008 based on what he referred to as their “new tracking system.”

The number is just the latest in an ongoing trend of dramatic underreporting of civilian killings by international forces during the war on terror, yet stands along among such incidents for being so transparently obvious an undercount.

One needs only to recall two incidents: The August US air strike in Herat which killed 90 civilians and the November killings of 37 civilians when the United States attacked a wedding party in Kandahar, before it becomes readily apparent that NATO is missing a few people. Indeed, reports from human rights groups suggest they are missing over a thousand.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been complaining about the civilian killings for years, and his government has issued an ultimatum to NATO: stop killing Afghan civilians by February 10 (one month after the ultimatum was issued) or they will seek a referendum on the presence of foreign forces.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.