Friday, July 20, 2007

British Casualty Monitor Update: 20.07.2007

The latest casualty data from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was made available by the MOD earlier this week. These cover the period up to June 30th. The data has now been analysed and added to the tracking graphs available on the Monitor pages for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also, this morning comes the news of 3 more British fatalities, caused by a mortor attack on the airbase in Basra. This incident forms part of a pattern of steadily escalating combat casualties, the monthly moving average in Iraq now standing at 42.

Monday, July 16, 2007

British Casualty Rate on the Frontline in Afghanistan Set to Exceed the Second World War

The Telegraph is claiming that the rate at which British soldiers are being seriously injured or killed on the front line in Afghanistan is about to exceed that suffered by UK troops during the Second World War. While there are many reasons to be cautious about their analysis, e.g. they may be unfairly comparing frontline casualties from Afghanistan with total casualties in WWII, the claim is nonetheless striking.
The casualty rate in the most dangerous regions of the country is approaching 10 per cent. Senior officers fear it will ultimately pass the 11 per cent experienced by British soldiers at the height of the conflict 60 years ago. The rise is partly driven by a tenfold increase in the number of wounded in action - those injured, but not killed - in the past six months as fighting in Afghanistan has intensified.

Last November, only three British soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan by the Taliban, compared with 38 in May.

Meanwhile in Iraq, British troops are now suffering a higher rate of fatal casualties by proportion than their American colleagues.

In a five-month period this year, there were 23 fatalities among the 5,500 British troops compared with 463 fatalities among the United States's 165,000 troops, according to the Royal Statistical Society. Military commanders are concerned that the high rate will start to have an impact on operations and morale.

The full article can be read here

Friday, July 13, 2007

US Troops in Iraq and Civilian Casualties - Veterans Bear Witness

The Nation has published interviews with 50 US veterans of the war in Iraq. They help reveal some of the reasons for the large numbers of civilian casualties inflicted by US forces.
Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts...

...Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured "an innocent noncombatant."
The full article can be read here

Monday, July 09, 2007

UN Says More Afghan Civilians Killed By NATO Led Mission Than by The Taliban

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (IRIN) have reported that the war in Afghanistan is resulting in a growing number of civilian casualties, and that NATO led forces are now responsible for more civilian deaths than the Taliban they are fighting.
A spokesman for the UN in Afghanistan, Adrian Edwards, said on 2 July: “The overall number of deaths attributed to pro-government forces, which include the ANA [Afghan National Army], ANP [Afghan National Police], NDS [National Directorate of Security] and international military forces, marginally exceeds that caused by anti-government forces”.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has reported that so far this year, over 270 civilians have been killed in military operations by international forces. Over 270 non-combatants have also died in Taliban attacks. A total figure of around 600 civilian deaths has also been reported, but a large margin of uncertainty exists around these tallies.

Along with the UN, ICRC and others, AIHRC are calling for restraint and a change of tactics from the waring parties. “We call upon the Taliban, US military, ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and all other parties involved in the conflict to reduce the impact of their military operations on Afghan children,” said Najibullah Babrakzai, a children protection officer for AIHRC.

The call has received a limited response. Buisness as usual with widespread use of US airpower seems set to continue, at least according to
the reaction from US Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel reported by AP.
"We think the procedures that we have in place are good," Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel told a Pentagon press conference. "They work, they help us minimize the effects" on civilians, he said.
The latest statements from the UN strongly contradict the US assertion. They follow on from a recognition that not enough was being done to monitor and account for casualties caused in the conflict. In May, the UN announced that they were setting up a database of casualties. While the detailed information from this database appears to be kept out of the public domain, perhaps the existence of this initiative has at least facilitated a more robust position from the UN mission. This has to be welcomed.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Casualty Reporting: The Importance of Cross-checking

In a rare example of apparent good journalism from the mainstream media in Iraq, the BBC seem to have actually cross-checked a US account of an attack. While the US version speaks of helicopters, armed with missiles, engaging and killing 17 al-Qaeda gunmen, the real story may well be very different.
"...villagers in largely-Shia al-Khalis say that those who died had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They say they were local village guards trying to protect the township from exactly the kind of attack by insurgents the US military says it foiled. They say that of 16 guards, 11 were killed and five others injured - two of them seriously - when US helicopters fired rockets at them and then strafed them with heavy machinegun fire."
"The incident highlights the problems the news media face in verifying such combat incidents in remote areas"
For the full story: Village disputes story of deadly attack

Monday, July 02, 2007

UN chief urges military in Afghanistan to avoid civilian casualties

You may wonder why I chose the Philippine Star as the citation for this story on the UN Sectretary General. Well, under reporting of his comments by western media is the answer...

From the Philippine Star

GENEVA (AFP) - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday said he had delivered a "strong" appeal to military commanders in Afghanistan to avoid civilian casualties.

"I'm still very much concerned and saddened by this continuing violence and particularly by the civilian casualties," Ban said ahead of a meeting in Rome with NATO and Afghan leaders on conditions in war-battered Afghanistan.

The UN chief made a fleeting visit to Kabul on Friday for talks with President Hamid Karzai and with the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

"I have made a strong request to the Afghan leaders as well as military commanders to avoid civilian casualties during the course of their military operations," Ban said in a news conference in Geneva.

See also:

'Up to 80 civilians dead' after US air strikes in Afghanistan

Rome meet to look into Afghan civilian deaths