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Erica Gaston
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Blog Entries by Erica Gaston

Night Raids: For Afghan Civilians, the Costs May Outweigh the Benefits

Posted September 19, 2011 | 09/19/11 05:33 PM ET

If the Taliban came to your house in the night, fully armed, and demanded food, would you feed them? You may have no choice. This does not make you a combatant. But it can leave you at risk of another visit in the night and detention by U.S. special operations...

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Hushing Up Civilian Casualties Investigations in Afghanistan

Posted March 7, 2011 | 03/07/11 01:20 PM ET

A Global Post report last week found that not only did recent US airstrikes in Kunar province, Afghanistan, kill as many as 67 civilians, but also that some journalists were prevented from investigating what happened. Jean MacKenzie reported that two Al Jazeera reporters were detained and...

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Why Oversight Matters: The Consequences of Hiring Criminals and Insurgents to Guard US Bases

Posted October 12, 2010 | 10/12/10 05:30 PM ET

A Senate Armed Services Committee report released Friday found that many Afghans subcontracted to guard U.S. bases have links to the Taliban or criminal networks. Many of these individuals are accused of serious abuses against civilians, including murder, robbery, kidnapping, and bribery. Lack of oversight in the hiring...

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Outsourcing the Dirty War in Afghanistan

Posted September 29, 2010 | 09/29/10 10:17 PM ET

A big revelation from Bob Woodward's new book Obama's Wars is that the CIA maintains a 3000-strong Afghan paramilitary force that conducts cross-border operations into Pakistan. Though news to the U.S. public, these abusive paramilitary forces are unfortunately far too well known to many Afghan civilians.

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What's Missing From the Wikileaks Afghanistan Logs

Posted July 26, 2010 | 07/26/10 08:33 PM ET

The recently Wiki-leaked military logs from the war in Afghanistan offer a level of transparency about civilian casualties that countless investigations, several military tactical directives, and hundreds of news reports have not. By not addressing these issues openly earlier and providing a minimum of accountability, ISAF has sabotaged...

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Gen. Petraeus's Review of Tactics Must Focus on Night Raids and Civilian Protection

Posted June 29, 2010 | 06/29/10 02:37 PM ET

With General Stanley McChrystal's ouster, his successor General David Petraeus has suggested that he will review specific tactical restraints, even though the overall strategy and direction of the Afghanistan war will remain the same. As he begins his review, the tactics General Petraeus should...

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Shot in the Back: Insurgent Attacks and Afghan Disillusionment with Population Protection

Posted January 13, 2010 | 01/13/10 01:36 PM ET

Three times as many civilians were killed in suicide attacks and IED explosions by insurgents as were killed in air strikes by international forces in 2009, according to a report released today by the human rights unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). And yet...

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ISAF's New Afghanistan Counterinsurgency Strategy: Attacking Medical Clinics??

Posted September 8, 2009 | 09/08/09 10:46 AM ET

Last Wednesday evening at 2pm, international forces raided a clinic in Wardak province run by one of the largest NGOs in Afghanistan, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA). They forced entry into several rooms, tied up local staff and some family members of the patients, and ordered even bed-ridden...

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Has Kandahar Already Fallen?

Posted August 10, 2009 | 08/10/09 05:51 PM ET

In a week where security in Afghanistan seems headed anywhere but up (rocket strikes on Kabul, a Taliban frontal assault in Logar province today), the question on many a commentator's lips has been: where is this all going?

Some of the strongest analysis on stabilizing Afghanistan recently...

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Security Dilemmas and Roadside Bombs in Afghanistan

Posted August 6, 2009 | 08/06/09 06:42 PM ET

Two civilians were killed in an IED attack in Kapisa province today, the latest in what was already a bloody week for Afghanistan. On Monday, 10 civilians were killed and 29 others wounded in an IED attack in Herat province. On Wednesday, at least 5 people were killed by...

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Fussing Over Numbers: Body Counts and Accountability

Posted August 3, 2009 | 08/03/09 05:12 PM ET

Since the new UN estimates on civilians killed so far in 2009 were released on Friday, I've been getting questions on whether these numbers are helpful, or even accurate, in describing the conflict: What's the value of the obsession with body counting?

In one sense, these numbers offer a...

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New UN Report: More Than 1,000 Civilians Killed in 2009

Posted July 31, 2009 | 07/31/09 10:23 AM ET

The UN issued its mid-year review on civilian deaths this morning. More than 1000 Afghan civilians have been killed so far this year -- 24% more than in the first part of 2008. Two key take-aways from the report:

1) Numbers of those killed by insurgent attacks are...

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The New Taliban Code of Conduct: A Kinder, Gentler Taliban?

Posted July 30, 2009 | 07/30/09 09:39 AM ET

On Monday Al Jazeera made public a new Taliban code of conduct, which includes much talk about winning over the "civilian Muslims" by limiting civilian bloodshed. "The utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties," the book says. Is it likely to make a difference?

Past experience suggests...

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A Military Strategy Held Hostage: Population Protection in Afghanistan

Posted April 5, 2009 | 04/05/09 11:50 PM ET

Investigators in Western Afghanistan are sifting through the rubble to determine how many civilians were killed in crossfire and airstrikes in Farah province on Monday. Current estimates range from a few dozen to well over a hundred.

Shortly after the incident, General David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander...

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More Troops Alone Will Not Win Back Afghans' Confidence

Posted March 14, 2009 | 03/14/09 03:02 AM ET

This week I've had a lot of meetings at the Kabul headquarters for the NATO mission here, ISAF. Everyone in Kabul, but especially the military types, are humming about a new "comprehensive strategy" for Afghanistan.

A quick survey of the event coverage and op-ed sections of most US newspapers...

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Salt in the Wound: The Case for Compensation

Posted March 5, 2009 | 03/05/09 04:53 PM ET

I've written generally in the last few blogs about the compensation and victim assistance issues that CIVIC analyzed in our recent report. Let's take a concrete example of the type of harm and redress we're talking about. A few months ago, I met several families who lost relatives and friends...

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Kabul Notebook: Searching for More than Just Talk On Civilian Casualties

Posted March 2, 2009 | 03/02/09 04:06 AM ET

I arrived back in Kabul this week. With the snow already melting, many fear that spring - and with it a spring offensive by the Taliban - is already on its way. If past years are any guide, those bearing the lasting costs of an escalation in the conflict will...

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Losing the People: The Cost and Consequences of Civilian Suffering in Afghanistan

Posted February 26, 2009 | 02/26/09 01:59 AM ET

For the last year, I have been living in Afghanistan interviewing civilians harmed in the conflict for the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC). We spoke with 143 survivors of airstrikes, suicide bombings, IEDs, convoy shootings, and other incidents of war. What they told me, as well as what...

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