What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2009: the year of spectacularly more careful application of air power?

A friend of mine posted UNAMA's latest report on civilian casualties of the conflict in Afghanistan recently, and highlighted how 2009 was the deadliest year yet for civilians in Afghanistan (since 2001, of course!).

That is certainly true and relevant, but I needed to react in a comment saying:

"It should also be noted that while civilian casualties may have risen by 14 percent, along with the significantly intensifying combat, casualties from collateral harm by coalition operations decreased by about 28 percent. In some cases air strikes were pulled while troops were in contact. In other words, mostly the insurgents were doing the killing of civilians in 2009, based on the UN's figures."

Indeed it is striking how "civilian deaths caused by the armed opposition increased by 41 per cent between 2008 and 2009 from 1,160 to 1,630" largely as a result of increased use of suicide bombings and IEDs according to the accompanying press release by UNAMA. The conflict has become much more asymmetrical in this respect, even with significantly more coalition and Afghan troops on the ground... In some cases air strikes were pulled, to conform to the new COIN guidelines, even while troops were in contact. And in a twisted way the exceptions are notable, too, such as the case of the Kunduz bombing, ordered by German troops - the incident which significantly added to the final toll and was the result of a predictably bad decision. It could be telling to deduce that from the figure to thus make coalition forces' performance look even more impressive, but unfortunately that would not make sense at all. The Kunduz case needs to be remembered and counted in any case. Anyway, the UNAMA report is there for you, me, all of us, to read.

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