With a massive escalation in the number of air strikes in Afghanistan, many were likely surprised by today’s NATO claim that the number of civilians killed or wounded in them has dramatically dropped over the past two years. The surprise is understandable because the data simply isn’t true.
NATO claims a total, so far this year, of 88 civilian casualties. That seems a bit low, but how low? Well the UN’s own report on NATO air strikes reported 114 civilian casualties in the first six months of the year alone, and scores of others have been killed in what have been virtually weekly high profile air strikes since then.
The comparison between this and the “same period 2008” is difficult, of course, because their figures for that period appear no more accurate. 188 casualties for 2008 seems itself remarkably low, when one considers that the casualties of a single air strike in that period in the Herat Province was well over 100 (including 90 deaths and a number of injuries). And this doesn’t include large numbers killed in ground attacks and night raids, of course.
Indeed, the attempt to downplay civilian deaths by partitioning them into small segments isn’t even done well in this case, but its absurdity as an overall narrative is clear. Recent Red Cross data indicates that casualties in the nation’s south are soaring, while fighting has also been on the rise in the north.
Though he has yet to dramatically overhaul the Rules of Engagement, Gen. David Petraeus is said to have relaxed rules regarding endangering of civilians since taking control. The daily news suggests this is taking a considerable toll on civilians, though of course NATO’s skewed data makes it difficult to discern exactly how much.