“In Afghanistan, if someone comes to your home [to apologize] you do not get revenge on them. But we also request them to help the families of those killed… If they dont help our families, we take it as a sign that they did this intentionally. And then people will raise their guns to fight them.”- Abdul*, whose eight-year-old son was killed in an ISAF airstrike

When the Center for Civilians in Conflict began operating in Afghanistan, in 2003, civilian protection was not a priority for international forces, and little help was available for civilians who had been harmed. That has changed, thanks in part to our work.

CIVIC convinced NATO to adopt its first amends policy, providing acknowledgment of harm and financial assistance, for Afghan war victims. We pressed international forces to create a formal method of tracking civilian casualties and incorporate it into military operations, which they did. We convinced the US Congress to create its first non-monetary assistance program specifically for civilians harmed by US combat operations.  We created a step-by-step process for international and Afghan forces to respectfully respond to civilian casualties.

Now international forces have turned over operations to Afghan forces. If meaningful measures are not in place to help Afghan forces prevent civilian harm, CIVIC is concerned that civilians will be at increased risk. Therefore, we are offering the Afghan government practical solutions to avoid and respond to civilian harm—including training for its forces, a way to track civilian casualties, and opportunities to learn from international forces’ experiences. In 2014 we published Civilian Harm Tracking: Analysis of ISAF Efforts in Afghanistan, which identifies lessons learned from implementing the first large-scale civilian casualty tracking mechanism.

In 2015, we are providing technical assistance to the Afghan government in coordination with NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to develop an Afghan Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team (CCMT) to better enable the Afghan government and security forces to track, analyze, and mitigate civilian harm. We are working with civil society groups to create an Afghan civilian protection working group to help civil society advocate with parties to the conflict on civilian protection issues.

*name changed