Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Site maintenance

We are pleased to let you know that, after a prolonged period of neglect, casualty-monitor.org has had a refresh. Hopefully, all broken links have now been cleared and the graphics are back where they should be. We also hope that the analysis will be brought up to date soon.

It is good to see that interest in the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq has not completely waned in the British media. Given the long overdue, but perhaps (not) imminent report from the Chilcott Enquiry a renewed focus on the public health cost of these two wars may well emerge over the next 12 months?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Civilian Casualty Data for Afghanistan in 2011

The figures from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have been added to the civilian casualty monitoring page. They show a continued upward trend with 3,021 fatalities and 4,507 injuries documented during 2011. The reporting of estimates for civilian injuries is a welcome addition to the previously reported fatality estimates. These figures bring the total civilian casualty estimate for the war since 2007 to 24,295. 

The figures very likely only represent the tip of the total numbers since the start of the war in 2001, and, of course, take no account of the Afghans killed and injured while fighting the occupation.

British Casualties in Afghanistan: Data updated for 2011

An updated analysis of casualty data for British forces in Afghanistan has been posted, covering the period until the end of 2011. Total UK casualties for 2011 were 2,183, including 46 fatalities and 1,147 aero-medical evacuations. The peaks seen in 2009/10 did not occur during 2011, and overall casualty levels have returned to a similar level as seen in 2008. The monthly trend shows a downwards slope from September 2010, when US forces took over combat in Sangin District, through to the end of the year.

With recent events in Afghanistan the prospects for 2012 remain uncertain. We plan to provide a more reliable update service in 2012 to follow these developments and thank you for your patience.

Monday, May 09, 2011

British Casualties in Afghanistan: Updated data posted for 1st quarter of 2011

An updated analysis of casualty data for British forces in Afghanistan has now been posted. Total UK casualties for the first quarter of 2011 stand at 525, including 15 fatalities, and are at similar levels to those seen during Jan-March in 2009/10. Over the last 3 years the lowest casualties have been reported during April, rising afterwards to peak during July and August in the summer fighting season. However, media reports of Taliban attacks in Kandahar during the last few days, following on from a successful escape attempt in which nearly 500 prisoners broke out of Sarpoza prison, suggest that intensification of the insurgency may be happening earlier in 2011 [BBC, Guardian].

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Difficulties of Counting the Dead in Libya

As stalemate, uncertainty, and mounting casualties continue in the war in Libya a brief but useful overview of the difficulties in estimating the death toll can be found in 'When Numbers Lie'.

In a previous post we commented on the the bleak prospects for Western forces providing better reporting on casualties caused by their combat activities in Libya. However, with that in mind it is also worth pointing to two archived articles from the British Army Review. The first, from 2009, looks at the use of Civilian Battle Damage Assessment Ratios to monitor military activities with the aim of reducing civilian casualties [BAR, 147]. The second, from 2010, calls for recording "all the dead: not just our own"; recognising the strategic advantages of such an approach [BAR 149].

The UK and other militaries are clearly thinking about the advantages of more open disclosure and better data recording. In conjunction with NGOs and academics important steps are being taken in that direction [Oxford Research Group]. Will this result in actual improvements in casualty reporting and, more importantly, real time adjustment of tactics to minimise casualties? The war in Libya is perhaps the testing ground for this new awareness. As it continues and evolves events may reveal to what extent the thinking revealed by the articles in the British Army Review has actually been main streamed.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Evidence and Advocacy on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: The view from UNAMA

An article on UN efforts to monitor civilian casualties during the ongoing war in Afghanistan has been published in Humanitarian Exchange [ODI-HPN]. The article is by Norah Niland, who was on sabbatical after completing a term as the director of human rights in the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan [UNAMA]. The piece explores efforts to:
"...mobilise attention in decision-making circles to the costs of war on Afghan civilians. It focuses on the role that systematic monitoring and investigation by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Human Rights (HR) team, coupled with routine public UN reporting, has played in supporting advocacy aimed at enhancing protection for people whose lives are at imminent risk."
Unfortunately, the article is rather short on detail about the methods employed and doesn't really discuss how reliable the data can be, given the circumstances they are operating within. However, it is an interesting read and outlines, for example, how evidence was used to disprove ISAF accounts of  an air strike in Shindand, in 2008. This event subsequently led ISAF to establish a new Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell.

The article also discusses efforts from both sides of the conflict to take steps to reduce civilian casualties and to been seen to do so, and concludes on a positive note.
"A multitude of factors shape the scale and nature of warfare in Afghanistan. However, as the issue of civilian deaths has acquired strategic significance, belligerents, mindful of public perceptions, have taken efforts to protect civilian lives. Thus, while civilian deaths continue to increase, they have done so at a slower pace than the increase in conflict-related incidents."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Civilian Casualties in Libya

As the war against the Libyan Government enters its fifth day the concern about civilian casualties continues to grow.  Perhaps even more than in Iraq and Afghanistan, the issue has substantive political importance as efforts to maintain a broad based backing for the US/UK/French action continue [New York Times, CIF]. While the great majority of casualties that have been inflicted in the war so far have been caused by Libyan Government and rebels forces, the impact of western forces may well grow as the war continues.

Following the invasion of Afghanistan, it took over nine years for the US military to admit that they do collect and hold data on civilian casualties. The British military has yet to be as forthcoming. Will the western coalition perform any better in this new conflict or will we be left again we no hard information with which the human costs and benefits of the western intervention can be assessed?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Database of Afghan Civilian Casualties Released by US/NATO Military

A database of civilian casualties has just been released by US/NATO forces in Afghanistan. Probably in a response to WikiLeaks revelations, the CIVCAS database is now being put into the public domain. The  Science periodical published an article yesterday that describes and provides a graphical visualisation of the data, which covers the period from Jan 2009 to end of 2010 [Science]. The database also includes data from 2008 but this was not included in the analysis. 

We will be taking a critical look at the data and including it in the civilian casualties tracking page in future updates. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tracking Page added for Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

Yesterday, the latest civilian fatality data from the war Afghanistan was published by the UN. While there are many questions regarding the reliability and completeness of this data we have decided to add a civilian casualty tracking page to the site. The graphical analysis can be found here and more will be added as it becomes available.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Civilian Casualties Continue to Rise Year on Year in Afghanistan

A further increase in civilian casualties has been reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). In their Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict they report 2,777 conflict-related civilian deaths in 2010, an increase of 15 per cent compared to 2009. Over the past four years, they have documented the deaths of 8,832 civilians in the conflict.
“In a year of intensified armed conflict, with a surge of activity by pro-government forces and increased use of improvised explosive devices and assassinations by anti-government elements, Afghan civilians paid the price with their lives in even greater numbers in 2010,” said Ivan Simonovic, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights...
Anti-government elements were linked to 2,080 civilian deaths (75 per cent of all civilian deaths), up 28 per cent from 2009, while pro-government forces were linked to 440 civilian deaths (16 per cent), down 26 per cent from 2009. Nine per cent of civilian deaths in 2010 could not be attributed to any party to the conflict.

Suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killed the most Afghan civilians in the conflict in 2010, taking 1,141 lives, or 55 per cent of civilian deaths attributed to anti-government elements. In the most alarming trend, 462 civilians were assassinated by anti-government elements, up 105 per cent from 2009. Half of civilian assassinations took place in southern Afghanistan, with a 588 per cent increase in 2010 in Helmand province and a 248 per cent increase in Kandahar province...

Among tactics used by pro-government forces, aerial attacks continued to have the highest human cost in 2010, killing 171 civilians or 39 per cent of total civilian deaths linked to pro-government forces. However, in spite of a significant increase in the use of air assets by progovernment forces in 2010, the proportion of pro-government forces-attributed civilian deaths caused by aerial attacks fell sharply by 52 per cent compared to 2009.

          [UNAMA]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

British Casualties in Afghanistan Fall Slightly During 2010

An updated analysis of casualty data for British forces in Afghanistan has now been posted. Total UK casualties during 2010 totalled 2,744, a slight decrease from the peak of 2009. Casualties fell by a small margin in all categories accept field hospital admissions. These figures do not of course reflect the recent increase in fatalities seen in the last few weeks.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

British Casualties in Afghanistan: Updated data posted for 3rd quarter of 2010

An updated analysis of casualty data for British forces in Afghanistan has now been posted. Total UK casualties now stand at 2,192 for the first 9 months of 2010. The data shows that MOD classified casualties spiked to their second highest ever monthly total in July and then fell back in August and September to levels seen in the spring.

Since the last data update in August there have been a number of notable developments. In brief:
Following much uncertainty over UK government statements on the pull out date for British forces, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, states that their combat role will end in 2015. [Reuters] A security think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, publishes a report claiming the threat to the UK of the Taliban and Al Qaida is overplayed and that the war in Afghanistan risks becoming a long drawn-out disaster [Guardian].

At the end of September British forces hands over control of Sangin to the Americans, prompting much debate over the costs involved of establishing bases that are now being closed, and the way the US apparently disregards British advice [BBC, Telegraph].

Things continue to go badly for the Americans with their highest annual casualty toll already reached during September and the increased activity of the Haqqani insurgent group [AFP, Telegraph]. More bad publicity also emerges, this time regarding 'sport' killings of Afghans by a rouge US platoon [AFP]. At the beginning of October Pakistan closes its border with Afghanistan as a protest against US attacks that kill three Pakistani Frontier Scouts [Indian Express]. The border is eventually reopened but not before a series of convoy attacks within Pakistan and apologies from the US Ambassador [AFP].

Towards the end of October it emerges that not just the US, but also Iran, has been financially supporting the government in Kabul with, literally, bags of cash [Reuters]. Speculation also emerges about a possible Russian intervention in Afghanistan; this time fighting on the side of the US against the nationalist insurgents [Guardian].

Finally, the escalating human cost of the continuing conflict is brought home by a a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross that describes how admission of war casualties are soaring in the Mirwais hospital in Kandahar [ICRC].