President Ashraf Ghani has ordered the National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to abide by strict rules for preventing civilian casualties in their operations against militants.
A UN report from last month shows that a record number of civilians were killed in 2018.
“As President of a responsible state, I must say that civilian casualties are the most tragic event in times of war, it pains me as much as any other Afghan when I hear about harm to civilians,” Ghani said.
He made the remarks at an meeting with senior security officials from his cabinet as well as from the NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
“I have ordered ANDSF to either abort or to wait-out a potential target if even a single civilian is present,” Ghani said in a tweet hours after his meeting.
“Our security and defense forces are committed to the rules of war and engagement and they only provide proportionate response to any enemy attacks,” Ghani added.
Ghani said the Afghan security agencies have taken urgently steps whenever they have received any reports on civilian casualties.
“These casualties are unacceptable to the Government and the leaderships of our ANDSF, if that is one person or more. In the past few years whenever we have received such reports they have been followed up urgently and efforts have been made to avoid harming civilians,” Ghani added.
“I've summoned the leaders of the ANDSF not only to provide explanation about previous investigations vis-a-vis civilian casualties, but also to deliberate about avoiding civilian losses in the future and to ultimately reduce and end the level of such unfortunate incidents,” Ghani said in a tweet after the meeting.
The UN in a report released last month said the organization has documented 3,804 civilian deaths, including 927 children, in 2018.
In total, UNAMA documented 10,993 civilian casualties (3,804 deaths and 7,189) wounded), representing a five percent increase in overall civilian casualties and an 11 percent increase in civilian deaths compared with 2017.
In this report, UNAMA attributes the majority of civilian casualties – 63 percent – to anti-government elements (37 percent to Taliban, 20 percent to Daesh, and 6 percent to undetermined anti-government elements).
According to the report, pro-government forces caused 24 percent civilian deaths (14 percent by Afghan national security forces, six percent by international military forces, and four percent by other pro-government armed groups and forces).
The report says that key factors contributing to the significant increase in civilian casualties were a spike in suicide attacks by anti-government elements, mainly Daesh, as well as increased harm to civilians from aerial and search operations by pro-government forces.
The report says that 2018 witnessed the highest number of civilian casualties ever recorded from suicide attacks and aerial operations.