“…new rules of engagement (ROE) ushered in by the Trump administration three years ago coincided with a 95 percent increase in [Afghan] civilians killed by U.S and allied airstrikes compared to the previous decade.”
Study: “Afghanistan’s Rising Civilian Death Toll Due to Airstrikes, 2017-2020.”
By Neta C. Crawford. Released December 7, 2020 by the Brown University “Costs of War” Project.
Summary: “When the United States tightens its rules of engagement and restricts air strikes where civilians are at risk, civilian casualties tend to go down; when it loosens those restrictions, civilians are injured and killed in greater numbers.
“In 2017 the Pentagon relaxed its rules of engagement for airstrikes and escalated the air war in Afghanistan. The aim was to gain leverage at the bargaining table. From 2017 through 2019, civilian deaths due to U.S. and allied forces’ airstrikes in Afghanistan dramatically increased.
“In 2019 airstrikes killed 700 civilians – more civilians than in any other year since the beginning of the war in 2001 and 2002. [emphasis added]
“After the U.S. and Taliban reached a peace agreement in late February 2020, U.S. and other international air strikes declined – and so did the harm to civilians caused by those strikes. The Afghan government is now negotiating with the Taliban and as part of a broader offensive, perhaps aimed at increasing Afghan government leverage in the talks, air strikes by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) have increased. As a consequence, the AAF is harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history.
“The uptick in civilians killed by AAF airstrikes between July and September 2020 was particularly striking. In the first six months of this year, the AAF killed 86 Afghan civilians and injured 103 civilians in airstrikes. That rate of harm nearly doubled in the next three months. Between July and the end of September, the Afghan Air Force killed 70 civilians and 90 civilians were injured.
“As with the international air strikes, some of this harm could be avoided by tighter rules of engagement, as well as better training. A negotiated ceasefire might also yield results at the bargaining table and at the same time avoid escalating harm to Afghan civilians from airstrikes.”
Read the full study here.