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Military regrets civilian casualties in recent Afghan offensive


This news story was published on January 21, 2014.
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KABUL, Afghanistan – While the coalition force investigation into the accidental deaths of several civilians in the Jan. 15 Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) operation in Parwan continues, numerous facts regarding the planning and conduct of the operation have been established.

Beginning in October 2013, the provincial governor of Parwan expressed the need to counter insurgent operations in the Ghorband district, which had taken a toll on the local police. Insurgents in this area enjoyed freedom of movement allowing them to threaten the local population and the Bamyan-Parwan Highway, as well as stage and facilitate attacks on ANSF and coalition forces. The operation was requested by the governor in response to those conditions and to increase security in preparation for upcoming national elections. The district is currently assessed as unable to support polling centers due to security threats. The resulting plan, approved through the Ministry of Defense, was a deliberate clearing operation to disrupt insurgent activity, based on intelligence obtained primarily by Afghan forces.

The mission was led by commandos of the 6th Special Operations Kandak, supported by The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) special operations advisers. Local district and provincial officials were informed in advance of the operation and were provided updates during and after the actions.

Immediately upon arriving in Ghorband, the ANSF commandos began receiving small arms fire from insurgents. As they moved through the district, the Afghan soldiers came under increasingly heavy fire, resulting in the deaths of one ISAF service member and one ANA soldier. The enemy forces were firing from civilian houses and compounds, deliberately putting at risk those in and around the compounds.

At that point, the ANSF and coalition advisers were unable to maneuver or withdraw without sustaining significant casualties. The combined force required defensive air support in order to suppress enemy fire from two compounds; defensive air support was used to counter the enemy fires and no raids were conducted on Afghan homes by coalition forces. According to operational reports, at least 14 insurgents were killed. Tragically, civilians inside a building from which insurgents were firing on the commandos were killed.

The force recovered insurgent ammunition and AK-47s, RPGs and IED-making materials as well as several Afghan National Army uniforms during the operation.

While coalition forces have expressed regret over the accidental deaths of civilians in this operation, it is worth noting that nearly 90% of Afghan civilian casualties are caused — in most cases, intentionally or by indiscriminate IEDs — by Taliban, Haqqani and other terrorist and insurgent groups.

Once again, insurgents used homes and compounds to attack Afghan and coalition forces. This tactic of launching attacks from civilian residences is detailed in the 2013 UNAMA report on civilian casualties. While ISAF-caused civilian casualties have decreased markedly over the past three years, insurgent-caused civilian casualties have continued to increase.

Coalition forces have turned over responsibility for security operations to Afghan forces, while still providing assistance, training and aviation, logistic and medical support as needed. Those coalition capabilities, which the ANSF currently lack in sufficient quality or quantity, are critical to the ANSF’s ability to secure the elections and the people of Afghanistan.

Coalition forces will continue to exercise self-defense and conduct force protection operations as necessary. Peace in Afghanistan requires terrorists and armed insurgents groups to lay down their arms and join the political process.

ISAF regrets any civilian casualties and will continue working with our Afghan partners to determine all the facts surrounding this incident.

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