iOS app Android app More

Sarah Holewinski

Sarah Holewinski

Posted: November 21, 2009 06:00 PM

Bad Math in Afghanistan: Deaths vs. Compensation

What's Your Reaction?

Nobody's manning the calculator at NATO.

This year is on track to be the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the war began in 2001. Yet Oxfam just reported that of the 700 Afghans they interviewed just 1% received any compensation or apology for the harm done to them.

War never delivers clean numbers. But no matter how you look at these, something doesn't add up.

International forces acknowledge that civilians are key to their mission but still haven't figured out a coordinated way to help Afghan war victims. Just months ago, General McChrystal specifically endorsed a collective policy of compensation in his 60-day assessment of the Afghan war, but NATO is still dragging its heels.

To break this down into real terms: If your home is accidentally bombed by a Coalition airstrike, you may get compensation for the loss of property. But you likely won't. If your son is shot at a checkpoint by, say, a European, you may get some money. You may even get more than if your house was destroyed. Or you may get nothing at all.

Is this really the right way to respect the population? To win them over?

Some states like the U.S., Canada and Australia are relatively good about offering compensation when Afghans are caught in their crossfire, and are getting better about not making knee-jerk denials following tragic incidents. But the international coalition includes 26 NATO, 10 partner and 2 non-NATO countries. Taken together, their efforts to address civilian suffering are horribly scattered -- ad hoc, slow and under-used to the point that most Afghan civilians receive nothing for their losses.

The fact remains there is no coordinated system or even uniform guidelines for addressing civilian harm among international forces. Survivor's pleas for apologies, investigations and assistance have been largely met with silence. That's a big missed opportunity for respecting and establishing stability among the Afghan population.

There's a big NATO gathering coming up in early December, where all of the big decision makers will gather in Brussels to discuss Afghanistan.

How about finally addressing the human cost of this war for Afghans?