U.S. Military Escalation Leads to Record Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and a newly released UN report, there were 800 civilian casualties between January and May 2009. Armed clashes between insurgents, the U.S. military, and the ISAF are up 24 percent this year, and have displaced tens of thousands more people. With over 1,000 recorded incidents of violence in May alone, Afghanistan is experiencing the worst security since the war began. And to make matters worse, the UN reported concluded, "The next period will likely experience an increase in the level of violence compared with the same period last year, including complex suicide attacks, intimidation and assassinations carried out by insurgents." That period, unfortunately, coincides with the Afghan presidential and provincial council elections slated for August.

The deadly consequences of militarizing the political crisis in Afghanistan may seem logical, but they're no less disturbing as we see staggering numbers of civilian casualties from this war. Complicating matters is the fact that insurgents have been targeting NGOs and aid workers. In the past six months, there were over 60 security incidents involving NGOs, with many aid workers reported killed or kidnapped. Such violence undercuts the chances of already underfunded humanitarian efforts, and yet the Pentagon has responded with more troops and airstrikes, creating more violence, more casualties, more anti-American sentiment, and the need for even more aid.

U.S. military leaders clearly view the precarious situation in Afghanistan in part as a PR war. That's why they were so quick to blame Taliban militants for the Farah province aistrikes that left up 140 civilians dead. But as Gareth Porter reported last week, the official military investigation of that disastrous attack revealed there were no Taliban fighters killed during second and third B-1 bombings, in which the majority of civilians died. So much for the military's human shield theory.

We can't allow the Pentagon to continue blaming Taliban insurgents when it's obvious that these civilian deaths are primarily the result of current U.S. foreign policy. To help those Afghans whose lives have been shattered by US military operations, contribute to RAWA through the Afghan Women's Mission. And to help change foreign policy to incorporate a more humanitarian approach, sign up to become a Peacemaker.