On Oct. 3, 2015, members of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) supporting a partnered Afghan force, conducted a combat operation that struck Trauma Center in Kunduz operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as “Doctors without Borders.” U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell, then the Commander of USFOR-A, directed an investigation to determine the cause of this incident. The lead investigating officer was Army Maj. Gen. William Hickman. He was assisted by Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Armfield and Army Brig. Gen Sean Jenkins. All three generals were brought in from outside Afghanistan in order to provide an objective perspective. The investigation team included over a dozen subject matter experts from several specialty fields.
ATP 3-07.6 discusses the importance of civilian protection during unified land operations and presents guidelines for Army units that must consider the protection of civilians during their operations. Protection of civilians refers to efforts to protect civilians from physical violence, secure their rights to access essential services and resources, and contribute to a secure, stable, and just environment for civilians over the long-term. ATP 3-07.6 describes different considerations including civilian casualty mitigation and mass atrocity response operations.
U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2014 Annual Report
The intensification of conflict-related violence in Afghanistan took an extreme toll on civilians in 2014, with civilian loss of life and injury reaching unprecedented levels. UNAMA documented 10,548 civilian casualties (3,699 deaths and 6,849 injured), marking a 25 per cent increase in civilian deaths, a 21 per cent increase in injuries for an overall increase of 22 per cent in civilian casualties compared to 2013.2 In 2014, UNAMA documented the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries in a single year since it began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009.
U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2013 Annual Report
Armed conflict in Afghanistan took an unrelenting toll on Afghan civilians in 2013. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 8,615 civilian casualties (2,959 civilian deaths and 5,656 injured) in 2013, marking a seven percent increase in deaths, 17 percent increase in injured, and a 14 percent increase in total civilian casualties compared to 2012.
This PoC Military Reference Guide is intended to be a resource for military commanders and staffs who must consider PoC while conducting operations in PSO and MOAC contexts as shown below Other interested readers may include international organizations, national militaries, training centers, and civilian and police officials who are also concerned with PoC.
Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA) Reducing and Mitigating Civilian Casualties: Enduring Lessons
The United States has long been committed to upholding the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and minimizing collateral damage, which includes civilian casualties (CIVCAS) and unintended damage to civilian objects (facilities, equipment, or other property that is not a military objective). In support of these goals, the U.S. military developed capabilities for precision engagements and accurately identifying targets, such as the development of refined targeting processes and predictive tools to better estimate and minimize collateral damage. These capabilities permitted the conduct of combat operations with lower relative numbers of civilian casualties compared to past operations. However, despite these efforts, and while maintaining compliance with the laws of war, the U.S. military found over the past decade that these measures were not always sufficient for meeting the goal of minimizing civilian casualties when possible. Resulting civilian casualties ran counter to U.S. desires and public statements that the United States did “everything possible” to avoid civilian casualties, and therefore caused negative second-order effects that impacted U.S. national, strategic, and operational interests.
The problem of civilian casualties in Afghanistan has presented substantial tactical difficulties for coalition forces according to a recent U.S. Army handbook. Produced by the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) and released to soldiers on a restricted basis in June, the handbook presents best practices for reducing civilian casualties (CIVCAS) and offers strategies for mitigating negative effects from casualties among local populations.
The U.S. military has long been committed to upholding the law of armed conflict and minimizing collateral damage. This includes the killing or wounding of noncombatant civilians — described in this handbook as civilian casualties or CIVCAS — as well as damage to facilities, equipment, or other property. Due to several factors, the impact of CIVCAS has increased to the point that single tactical actions can have strategic consequences and limit overall freedom of action. These factors include: the increased transparency of war, where tactical actions can be recorded and transmitted worldwide in real time; increased expectations for the United States’ conduct of war in light of improved precision and overall capabilities; and the enemy exploitation of CIVCAS to undermine U.S. legitimacy and objectives.
Vignettes put the rules of engagement (ROE) into context. Rules can be memorized, but without context, those rules have little meaning or value. There is not a repository of vignettes readily accessible to Soldiers. This handbook addresses that shortcoming for units heading to Afghanistan. Soldiers can use this handbook individually, but its value is greatly increased through group discussion and interaction with leaders and judge advocates.
Fully understanding the imperative to balance employment of fires to defeat the enemy with the necessity to protect civilian lives, the Marine Corps has modified the training / education of ground commanders, aviators, forward air controllers (FACs), joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs), and others in the fire support approval chain. This incorporates lessons and guidance contained in the USJFCOM investigation into the Farah incident and the Commander, International Security Assistance Force (COMISAF) tactical directive issued in July 2009.
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2011 Annual Report
A decade after it began, the armed conflict in Afghanistan again incurred a greater human cost in 2011 than in previous years. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 3,021 civilian deaths in 2011, an increase of eight percent over 2010 (2,790 civilian deaths) and a 25 percent increase from 2009 (2,412 civilian deaths). In 2012, UNAMA re-asserts the imperative for all parties to the conflict – Anti-Government Elements, and Afghan national and international military forces – to increase their commitment and efforts to protect civilians, and to comply fully with their legal obligations to minimize loss of life and injury among civilians.
This report is an executive summary of interviews conducted by CALL in support of the JCOA comprehensive Study Plan covering CIVCAS. Topics included CIVCAS incidents, pre-deployment training, planning, mitigation efforts and best practices from key leaders with recent operational experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.