Showing posts with label Afghan Casualties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Afghan Casualties. Show all posts

Friday, April 22, 2016

Guardian Reports on the Increasing Use of Drone Attacks by USAF in Afghanistan

US drone strikes outnumber warplane attacks for first time in Afghanistan  
"Drones are firing more weapons than conventional warplanes for the first time in Afghanistan and the ratio is rising, previously unreported US Air Force data for 2015 show, underlining how reliant the military has become on unmanned aircraft.

...In 2015, drones released about 530 bombs and missiles in Afghanistan, half the number in 2014 when weapons dropped by unmanned aircraft peaked." 

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Updated Graphs for Afghan Civilian Casualties

The graphs and data for Afghan civilian casualties have now been updated to include the latest UNAMA report, which covers the period to the end of 2015. The graphs shows a continued upward trend in conflict related civilian casualties.

As noted by ICRC last month, humanitarian concerns continue to grow as international concern dwindles.

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.

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."

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.


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].

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

United Nations Report An Increase of 31% in Afghan Civilian Casualties

A large increase in civilian casualties has been reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) during the first six months of 2010. From 1 January to 30 June 2010, UNAMA Human Rights Unit documented 3,268 civilian casualties including 1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries. It is worth noting that the very low ratio of injuries to deaths suggests that injuries are seriously under recorded. However, the increase is more than that estimated by other bodies. [UNAMA, Reuters]

Two major changes in the overall causation of fatalities have been reported by UNAMA. Firstly, there has been a 30 per cent decrease in civilian casualties caused by the US coalition compared to the same period in 2009, reflecting growing implementation of ISAF’s July 2009 Tactical Directive that regulates the use of air strikes and other measures to reduce civilian casualties. Secondly, there has been a 31 per cent increase in conflict-related Afghan civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and other elements of the armed opposition.

“Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict. They are being killed and injured in their homes and communities in greater numbers than ever before,” said Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

Analysis by UNAMA's Human Rights Unit identified two critical developments that accounted for the increased civilian casualty burden. There was a greater use of larger and more sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) throughout the country and the number of civilians assassinated and executed by the armed opposition rose by more than 95 per cent. Southern Afghanistan showed the largest increase in civilian casualties during their reporting period.

UNAMA issued the following recommendations:
• The Taliban should withdraw all orders and statements calling for the killing of civilians; and, the Taliban and other AGEs should end the use of IEDs and suicide attacks, comply with international humanitarian law, cease acts of intimidation and killing including assassination, execution and abduction, fully respect citizens’ freedom of movement and stop using civilians as human shields.

• International military forces should make more transparent their investigation and reporting on civilian casualties including on accountability; maintain and strengthen directives restricting aerial attacks and the use of night raids; coordinate investigation and reporting of civilian casualties with the Afghan Government to improve protection and accountability; improve compensation processes; and, improve transparency around any harm to civilians caused by Special Forces operations.

• The Afghan Government should create a public body to lead its response to major civilian casualty incidents and its interaction with international military forces and other key actors, ensure investigations include forensic components, ensure transparent and timely compensation to victims; and, improve accountability including discipline or prosecution for any Afghan National Security Forces personnel who unlawfully cause death or injury to civilians or otherwise violate the rights of Afghan citizens.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wikileaks Contributes to Understanding of Casualty Burden in Afghanistan

On Sunday thousands of leaked US military reports about the war in Afghanistan were published by the Guardian, New York Times, Der Speigel and Wikileaks.  The full ramifications of this release of data will not be known for some time, although increased tension between allies in the US coalition is already emerging.

In terms of understanding the casualty burden of the war what can these classified reports it tell us? Some issues have been reported on in the first two days whilst others may take longer to emerge.
- Although there are144 entries in the logs recording the killing of civilians by US coalition forces (so-called "blue on white" events), triangulation with journalists reports indicate that killing of civilians is often unreported, even in internal military documents.
- Retaliatory killings of civilians by US coalition forces appear to be common place, and have included the mortoring of a wedding party by Polish forces, and machine gunning of a bus by US soldiers.
- British forces have been involved in clusters of attacks on civilians, and these may be associated with particular units and times of tension.
- Reports of military actions have misrepresented casualties and tried to portray the victims as combatants when it was known they were civilians.
- CIA paramilitaries and secret special forces have been involved in civilian killings as well as regular military forces.
- The military capabilities of the Taliban are greater than previously reported in mainstream media, especially in their ability to target helicopters.
- There has been a massive increase in the use of IEDs by the Taliban, with 7,155 events recorded last year, resulting in greatly increased risks of collateral damage to civilians.
US Elite Unit Could Create Political Fallout for Berlin

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Estimating the number of civilian deaths from armed conflicts: How to fill the information void?

A research paper on estimating civilian deaths during armed conflict has recently been published in The Lancet medical journal. The paper looks at conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan and a new method for estimating civilian fatalities. This involved building a statistical model from the results of surveys that measured mortality and met certain quality criteria. In all, 107 surveys reported mortality data from Darfur between 2003 and 2008 and the researchers were able to include 63 of these results in their statistical model. [The Lancet]

In an accompanying commentary the limitations of the available data and analysis approach is discussed. Checchi points out that although the number of surveys available from Darfur seems large, they included only 16% of person-time at risk. This, he argues, is an indicator of the information gap that remains to be filled in nearly all large scale crises. Further, "..this limitation suggests the usefulness of mapping information coverage in real time to draw attention to regions where information is lacking or outdated, and to coordinate efforts to gather data. A corollary initiative would be to track the number and location of conflict-affected people in real time." [The Lancet]

What is striking is the paucity of mortality survey data collected on the conflicts covered by this site, namely Afghanistan and Iraq, compared to that in Darfur. Between 2007-2009, the period in Afghanistan when fighting escalated markedly, no mortality survey data has been gathered. Attempts to document civilian fatalities rely on case-by-case investigations by organisations such as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commissions [AIHRC]. Such approaches are almost inevitably going to result in partial coverage and under-estimation of the fatality burden. In addition, fatalities represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the total casualty burden, and there seems to be no attempt at all to try and estimate this larger figure in the civilian population.

As Checchi says in his introduction:
"Imagine that you are helping a population cope with the health effects of armed conflict, but have no information about whether their health is improving or not, or whether your programmes adequately address their burden of disease.

...Systematic measurement, analysis, and programmatic use of essential health indicators (mortality rate, prevalence of malnutrition, and coverage of essential services such as vaccination, and water and sanitation) remain the exceptions, despite being predicated in various manuals, policy documents, and meetings."
There are, of course, many reasons why it is so difficult for public health professionals to collect and document information of the health impacts of conflicts such as Afghanistan. However, in cases where initiation of the conflict has been actioned or facilitated by the UK government it must surely have a special responsibility to ensure that reliable data on health impacts are collected and made publicly available, so that humanitarian relief efforts can be appropriately planned. When access by independent scientists is made impossible by insecurity then that role, arguably, should be temporarily assigned to the military. Embedded-journalists are of course notorious for producing one-sided and partial coverage of war news. Could embedded-epidemiologists, following transparent and internationally recognised approaches produce credible data? Its a big question, but given the massive information gap that currently exists, it must surely be worth exploring.

(NB The side bar links to other key research articles and data sources have been updated, with the removal of some dead links and re-focusing of others on the most relevant pages.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Afghan Casualties Increasing in Helmand Province as US/UK Prepare for Major Assault

The International Committee of the Red Cross are reporting that even before the initiation of Operation Moshtarak an increase in Afghan casualties is being seen in the affected areas of Helmand Province.
"The current upsurge in military operations in Helmand, particularly in the districts of Marjah, Nadali, Sangin, Nari Saraj and Lashkar Gah, has resulted in a marked increase in the number of casualties requiring emergency medical treatment.

...Over the past few weeks, staff working at the ICRC's first-aid post in Marjah have been seeing increasing numbers of war casualties, although not as many as might be expected given the scale of the fighting. Civilians and injured fighters are finding it more and more difficult to go to places where they can obtain urgently needed medical care, owing to mounting security problems and numerous roadblocks and checkpoints throughout Helmand province. It is especially difficult for people coming from rural areas to reach Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah, where there are two hospitals. Those who do manage to reach a medical facility often succeed in doing so only after long delays.

The ICRC reminds the Afghan security forces, the international forces and the armed opposition that the sick and wounded - whether they be civilians or fighters, regardless of which side they are on - must be cared for with the least possible delay, in accordance with international humanitarian law. No distinction must be made among them on any grounds other than medical ones."


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Operation Moshtarak: Ministry of Defence warns about expected increase in British Casualties

The Ministry and Defence is warning of an expected upsurge in British casualties as a large offensive becomes imminent.
"People should be prepared for British casualties resulting from the upcoming major offensive in Helmand province, Operation MOSHTARAK, which will involve thousands of ISAF troops clearing parts of central Helmand of insurgents, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth has said.

While minor operations involving British troops as part of the initial 'shaping' phase of Operation MOSHTARAK have been taking place, the major 'clearing' phase of the operation is yet to begin." [MOD]
Less attention has been given to the expected increase in Afghan casualties, both civilian and combatant. However, large scale population displacement appears to be occurring and British sources are briefing about the inevitability of civilian casualties. [CBC, Independent]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan Rise to New High in 2009

New statistics released by the UN mission in Afghanistan today showed that 2009 proved to be the deadliest year yet for civilians since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. According to their figures, at least 5,978 civilians were killed and injured in 2009. Afghans in the southern part of the country, where the conflict is the most intense, were the most severely affected.

The UN mission recorded 2,412 civilian deaths during 2009, up by 14 per cent from 2008 when the mission recorded 2,118 civilian deaths. Of the 2,412 deaths reported last year, 1,630 (67%) were attributed to anti-Government elements while 596 (25%) were attributed to pro-Government forces. The remaining 186 deaths (8%) could not be attributed to any of the conflicting parties as they died as a result of cross fire or by unexploded ordinance.

It is worth noting from the above figures that the ratio of injured to dead is only 1.5, indicating that substantial under reporting of injuries has almost certainly occurred.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in conjunction with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), called on all sides of Afghanistan's conflict to uphold their obligations under international law and minimize the impact of fighting on civilians.

Ms Norah Niland, Chief Human Rights Officer said called for determined efforts by the insurgency to put into effect the Taliban "Code of Conduct" that calls on them to protect the lives of civilians.

She also said "However despite positive trends, actions by pro-Government forces continued to take an adverse toll on civilians; we recorded 359 civilians killed during aerial attacks, which constitute 61 per cent of the number of civilian deaths attributed to pro-Government forces. International and Afghan security forces also conducted a large number of search and seizure operations. These often involved excessive use of force, destruction of property and cultural insensitivity, particularly towards women."

[UNAMA] [Full Report (PDF)]

Thursday, December 03, 2009

US Must Take Responsibility for Investigating Civilian Casualties During Surge in Afghanistan

The decision by the US to send an additional 30,000 troops to war in Afghanistan was widely expected. Likewise, the Taliban response. Political debate continues over the wisdom of the US and UK escalation of the war in Afghanistan and what the 'withdrawal' or end of the surge in 2011 actually means. All this takes place in an environment where in which the US is moving to introduce a more direct model of political, as well as military, control of the country.

However, in spite of the intense level of media interest the potential impacts on Afghan civilians of US and UK policy has received less attention.

Amnesty International yesterday called for an effective mechanism for investigating civilian casualties, saying it was urgently needed.
"Amnesty International has called on the US to establish a consistent, clear and credible mechanism to investigate civilian casualties resulting from military operations after President Barack Obama said he would send 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan.

This is now particularly urgent due to the current lack of accountability and transparency within regular US military forces and civilian intelligence agencies, as well as private contractors..."
'Recent efforts by the US and NATO forces to minimise civilian casualties are a step forward but the US government must ensure that any troops who violate Afghan civilians' human rights are held to account.

'More US troops must not lead to more harm to Afghan civilians.'

Amnesty recognises that anti-government groups, including the Taleban, are responsible for the majority of civilian casualties and injuries in the country, but insisted that this does not diminish the responsibility to offer support to those injured by Afghan and NATO/US forces and to bring those suspected of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law to justice."
[Amnesty International]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Cost of War: New report on Afghanistan Released by Oxfam

Oxfam have today released a new report on the Cost of War to the people of Afghanistan. To better understand how Afghans have experienced and understand the conflict, eight non-governmental organisations operating in Afghanistan conducted research in 14 provinces in the country.

Their research focused on individual experiences of the past thirty years of conflict, perceptions of the current conflict and recommendations for alleviating the violence and addressing its root causes. This research, while not claiming to be based on a representative sample of all Afghans, aimed to more fully articulate Afghan experiences of the conflict and their aspirations for peace and the future of their country.

A sample of 704 people was asked about their experience of conflict over the last 3o years and the causes of the current conflict. The two leading causes they identified for the current conflict were firstly unemployment and poverty, and secondly, the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government. Torture had been experience by about 20% and 43% reported having had property destroyed.

Respondents called on the Afghan government to establish the rule of law and stop corruption; on pro and anti government forces to stop harm to civilians and provide compensation; and on the international community to provide effective humanitarian aid, hold the Afghan government accountable, stop interference in Afghan affairs and to establish a regional peace process.

The full report can be downloaded here...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: Increase continues through 2009

Over 2,000 civilians were killed due to armed conflict in Afghanistan between January and October 2009. The number of fatalities is continuing to increase according to the latest data released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). These numbers dwarf the casualties experienced by UK and other international forces.

“In the first 10 months of 2009, UNAMA recorded 2,021 civilian deaths, compared with 1,838 for the same period in 2008, and 1,275 in 2007,” Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner on human rights, said in a statement sent to the UN Security Council on 11 November by her deputy, Kyung-wha Kang.

“Civilian casualties continue to mount, with hundreds killed every year by armed anti-government elements, government forces, and international forces carrying out both air strikes and ground assaults,” it said.

August was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians, with 294 reported deaths, UNAMA said. Civilians have increasingly been caught in the cross-fire and their basic human rights such as access to health, education, food and shelter have been violated by the warring parties, the statement said.

The report stated that more civilians have died in attacks by Taliban insurgents during 2009 compared to aerial strikes and military operations by pro-government Afghan and international forces. According to UNAMA, 1,397 were killed by anti-government elements, 465 by pro-government forces and 165 by other actors.

However, this was disputed by the Taliban. A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, rejected UNAMA’s findings and blamed pro-government forces for most of the civilian deaths. In reports on previous time periods UNAMA/AIHRC data has indicated more deaths being due to the pro-government forces. The method of data collection used by UNAMA/AICHR and how impartial the analysis is remains unclear.

While estimates of fatalities are important there appears to be no data available on the total casualties suffered by the Afghan civilian population, although this figure will for certain be substantially higher than the fatality estimate. Likewise, in contrast to data on casualties suffered by international forces, there appear to be no publicly available data on casualties suffered by Afghans fighting for the government or for those fighting against the government or the presence of foreign troops.

[IRIN, UNAMA, Casualty Monitor]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Undercounting of Casualties by Omission and Exclusion

The military death tolls generally reported for in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are notable for two omissions. Firstly, the casualty burden suffered by the large number of combatants fighting against the US/UK/NATO presence are never fully considered. Secondly, the toll exacted on mercenaries working for private companies is usually excluded.

Bernd Debusmann, in a column for Reuters reports, for example, that the US military death toll in the two wars stood at 5,157 in the second week of September. However, to get the true picture he argues that at least 1,360 private contractors working for the U.S. should be added to this figure. There is a growing dependence on private contractors in the conduct of both these wars and mercenaries now outnumber the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

Similar data for British forces seems hard to obtain but these exclusions from official statistics must be born in mind when assessing the human cost of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Fighters and Civilians Burned to Death in NATO Airstrike

A NATO air strike in northern Kunduz is reported to have led to the deaths of dozens of combatants and civilians. A death toll of 90 has been reported with controversy remaining over the what proportion of these were civilians. NATO planes targeted two oil tankers that had previously been seized by Taliban fighters but may have been surrounded by civilians at the time of the strikes. [Reuters, AP, NATO]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Britain at War in Afghanistan: The Historical Context

Is History Bunk or Simply Repeating Itself?

As the milestone of 200 British fatalities rapidly passes it must surely be important to note the historical context of British military involvement in Afghanistan. This is, of course, the 4th Anglo-Afghan war. Previous conflicts have all been started by the British with the same basic motivation; a desire to exert influence by ensuring a friendly government is put in place and maintained in Kabul.

The beginning of modern Afghanistan can be dated to 1747 but it was not until the next century when super power interest began to focus on the country, with the British Empire on one side and the Russians on the other. The Kipling ‘Great Game’ of rivalry between the British and Russian Empires was played out in large parts of central Asia and involved the first three British incursions into Afghanistan.

These Anglo-Afghan wars took place in 1838-1842, 1878-81, and 1919. The first war was instigated by the British to displace the ruler in Kabul, Dost Mohammed, who was seen as being too close to Russia. Attempts to replace him with a British nominated ruler failed and the British were forced to retreat from Kabul in 1842 with the loss of thousands of lives. Dost Mohammed regained the throne.

The second war was instigated by the British against Dost Mohamed’s third son, Sher Ali. The British achieved their immediate objectives and, following the death of Sher Ali, signed a treaty with his son in 1879. Later the same year however the British envoy and his entire staff were killed and Britain eventually had to accept the leadership of Abdurrahman Khan, a popular choice of the Afghan tribes.

The most recent war occurred in 1919 after the leader of the day demanded international recognition of Afghanistan’s full independence. After a brief conflict, the British again failed to meet their policy objective and ended up signing an agreement recognising the independence of Afghanistan.

The current war, which started in October 2001 when the US, UK and their allies removed the government in Kabul, has been running for longer than any of the previous conflicts. The conflict has escalated greatly in the last three years and British casualties are now running at the highest level during this 4th Anglo-Afghan war. Despite the forthcoming Afghan elections there appears to be little prospect of a reduction in fighting unless serious negotiations on power sharing are undertaken.

There are of course important differences between the current war and its predecessors; the decline of the British Empire and the rise of the US for one, the new strategic importance of a potential pipeline route through Afghanistan being another; the emergence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a regional alliance to counter balance NATO/US influence; and the association of some parts of the Afghan resistance with international terrorism. The renewed interest in Afghanistan is, according to some, part of 'The New Great Game'.

Given the legacy of previous failure, an examination of history is surely an essential prerequisite for any policy maker contemplating the future of British involvement in Afghanistan.

‘History of Afghanistan’
‘The Great Game’
‘Will history repeat itself in Afghanistan?’
‘Central Asia pipeline deal signed’