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Air power in Afghanistan | 1ContentsForeword 2IntroductIon 4the laws and rules oF warFare 6aIr strIkes 82008-09: azIzabad and the Mcchrystal dIrectIve 12nato and vIctIM assIstance: the story oF kunduz 162012: sajawand and the allen order 182013: chawgaM and the karzaI decree 21conclusIon 23recoMMendatIons 25endnotes 26

AIR STRIKES IN AFGHANISTANAir power in Afghanistan | 3TURKMENISTANTAJIKISTANTIMELINE OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN7 OCTOBER 2001US airstrikes in Kabul signal start ofmilitary operations in AfghanistanKUNDUZ CITYKUNDUZ PROVINCE11 AUGUST 2003NATO take command responsibility forInternational Security Assistance Force (ISAF)SHINDANDHERAT PROVINCEAFGHANISTANKABULBARAKI BARAKLOGAR PROVINCECHAWGAMKUNAR PROVINCE21-22 AUGUST 200892 civilians killed in aerial bombing in Shindand, Herat province2 JULY 2009General Stanley McChrystal issues Tactical Directiverestricting air strikes and indirect fire against residential compounds4 SEPTEMBER 2009142 people killed in air strike on fuel tankershijacked by Taliban fighters in Kunduz province30 NOVEMBER 2011General John R. Allen issues Tactical Directive6 JUNE 201218 civilians killed in airstrike in Baraki Barak, Logar provinceIRANPAKISTAN12 JUNE 2012New NATO policy orders pilots not to drop aerial munitions on civilian dwellings13 FEBRUARY 2013Ten civilians killed in airstrike in village of Chawgam, Kunar province17 FEBRUARY 2013Afghan President Karzai bans Afghan security forces from requesting NATO air strikes.26 OCTOBER 2014US and UK officially end military operations in Afghanistan.THE HUMAN TOLL OF AIR STRIKES552CIVILIAN DEATHSFROM AIR STRIKES35930635320418239SHARE OF CIVILIAN DEATHS FROM PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES THAT WERE CAUSED BY AIR STRIKES64%61%39%53%40%19%9%2008200920102011201220132014JANUARY - JULYDATA: AOAV / UNAMA

Air power in Afghanistan | 5Afghanistan, as governments have been unwillingto risk soldiers’ lives and the publish backlash thatgoes with that. 11Explosive weapons also, clearly, present graverisks of death, injury and damage to civilians andcivilian infrastructure. These weapons all sharethe ability to affect an area. It is impossible, whenusing these weapons in a populated area, torestrict the potentially killer impact of an explosiverocket, missile or bomb to just one person or to atargeted group. Their use therefore raises specialconsiderations in the protection of civilians.This is particularly of valid concern, given howNATO’s operation in Afghanistan was justified inthe first place. Announcing the start of fighting in2001, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair declared:“The military plan has been put together mindfulof our determination to do all we humanely can toavoid civilian casualties.” 12 From its earliest conception,the justification for conflict was explicitlylinked to improving the welfare and security of theAfghan people.“Iam not happy with civiliancasualties coming down; I wantan end to civilian casualties…As much as one may argueit’s difficult, I don’t acceptthat argument… It seriouslyundermines our efforts to havean effective campaign againstterrorism.”Afghan President Hamid Karzai,26 April 2008 13METhODS AND SCOpENATO has repeatedly asserted that it takes greatmeasures to protect civilians during hostilitiesin Afghanistan, including its air strikes. 14 In thisreport, AOAV assesses this claim. Since 2008there has been a series of directives and policiesissued in regard to the conditions in which airpower can be called upon. This report scrutinisesthe impact of each new policy in turn to ask; howhas NATO learned from previous tragedies?How have these measures changed the rules ofengagement for using aerial explosive weaponsin populated areas in Afghanistan?The three specific rulings analysed in this reportare;• The Tactical Directive issued by General StanleyMcChrystal in July 2009;• An order issued by General John R. Allen inJune 2012, and;• A decree issued by the Afghanistan Presidentin February 2013 and adopted by NATOcommanders.In each case, AOAV highlights the facts and issuessurrounding a particular air strike that triggered anurgent need for change.The new policies considered in this report are notthe only ones that came about during NATO’stime in Afghanistan. In each case described herehowever there is clear cause and effect betweencivilian casualties from air strikes and subsequentpolicy change.AOAV is a founding member of the InternationalNetwork on Explosive Weapons (INEW). 15 Webelieve there is a need for stronger internationalstandards against the use of explosive weaponswith wide area effects in populated areas. Stoppingthe use of these weapons would save civilianlives both during attacks and in the longer term.This report will show how, collectively, NATO’spolicy changes in Afghanistan represent a clearexample of how changes in military operations(in order to offer higher levels of protection of civilians)can go beyond existing laws but can do sowithout jeopardising key military objectives.AOAV believes more could and should be doneglobally among militaries to adopt and advancethis example of encouraging practice in the useof explosive weapons in populated areas.

6 | Action on Armed Violencethe lAws And rulesof wArfAreLAWS OF WARAfghanistan has been categorised by NATO itselfas a non-international armed conflict. 16 As such,the conduct of hostilities in armed conflict is governedby international humanitarian law (IHL). Oneof the primary goals of IHL is to protect civilians asmuch as possible from suffering. 17In addition to the fundamental prohibition on anydirect attacks against civilians or civilian objects,the central tenets of IHL include rules on precaution(measures must be taken ahead of anyattack to avoid and minimise harm to civilians),distinction (efforts necessary to distinguish at alltimes between combatants and civilians, as wellas military and civilian objects), and proportionality(that no attack can be excessive in the harmcaused to civilians in relation to the concrete anddirect military advantage anticipated). 18These core humanitarian principles are an importantframe of reference for regulating the use ofexplosive weapons, and represent the buildingblocks upon which national military practice istheoretically based. Crucially, however, the basicguidelines for behaviour established by IHL providesonly limited protection against the patternof harm caused by the use of explosive weaponsin populated areas. 19RuLES OF WARRules of engagement (RoE) are defined by NATOas: “directives to military forces (including individuals)that define the circumstances, conditions,degree, and manner in which force, or actionswhich might be construed as provocative, may beapplied.” 21 In other words, RoE exist to regulatethe use of force by a military.As Figure 1 shows, RoE need to balance competinginterests. They seek to strike a middle groundbetween the parameters of law, the necessity of anoperation, and political or diplomatic pressures. 22NATO is a formalised alliance between nationstates. It does not have its own military. Insteadmembers contribute forces for the purposes ofcarrying out a specific mission. NATO’s collectiverules of engagement are developed by its MilitaryCouncil (MC), a decision-making body that bringstogether senior military officers from each of its 28member countries. 23Ultimately, however, every member state’ssovereignty takes precedence. Each country isresponsible for applying NATO’s rules to its ownforces, but is able to caveat these rules if theyconflict in some way with their own national interpretationof the laws of warfare. 24“Thefact that civilians die or are injured in an airstrike does not necessarilymean the airstrike violated the laws of war, as long as the precautionsrequired by the laws of war were taken and applied in good faith. Beyondthe human tragedy, high civilian casualties—regardless of whether theywere the result of lawful or unlawful conduct – should always be cause forconcern by a military force, as the damage to an armed forces’ reputationand good-will among the population can be considerable.”Human Rights Watch, “Troops in Contact”, 2008 20

Air power in Afghanistan | 7OperationalEffectivenessROEPolitical &DiplomaticLawand within populated areas in Afghanistan includingvillages, markets and public roads. 28 NATOforces have frequently faced the dilemma of howto conduct hostilities among populated areas,including whether or not their RoE permitted theuse of air strikes.AOAV’s discussions with UK Air Force Controllersalso revealed the importance to troops havingclear and unambiguous RoE. Fighting in populatedareas: “makes the discriminate use of firepowereven more difficult since the enemy is frequentlydifficult to identify and separate from the wideruninvolved population… This makes the low level,i.e. at a junior military level, interpretation of thevarious rules and criteria important and critical.” 29Figure 1: Rules of engagementJ Ashley Roach, Rules-of-Engagement, Naval WarCollege Review, February 1983Soldiers are expected to follow their own nationallaws first and foremost. Commanders cannot violatetheir respective national laws if these are morerestrictive than NATO’s operational RoE. 25This multiplicity of RoE can create confusion,disruption and disputes on the ground. AOAVinterviewed several UK air force personnel whohad served with NATO ISAF. They have beenkept anonymous at their request. In discussionswith commanders they highlighted how: “ROEsare a national responsibility so may vary betweencoalition partners involved in the same operation.There have been occasions when British forceshave been in contact and, although the aircrafthave arrived the more restrictive national ROEsof the partner country to which they belong haveprevented them from attacking; similarly but converselyother nation’s aircraft have been preparedto attack in conditions in which British ROEs andTargeting Directives have precluded their use.” 26AIR STRIkES IN pOpuLATED AREASDuring the course of the conflict in Afghanistan,NATO’s RoE have had to address the question ofhow to control the unintended effects of explosiveweapons when used in populated areas. Talibanfighters have often been accused of fighting from“Youwant to give the commanderon the ground flexibility withinthe laws of armed conflict […]The ISAF [NATO] definition hasno teeth as all countries havetheir own standards.”US Army general (name withheld), BagramAir Base, Afghanistan, 2007 27Within NATO airstrikes are seen a type of attackthat deserves particular consideration before itsuse. The difficulty of selecting accurate targets,particularly in fast-moving situations, and theimprecision and power of the explosive weaponstypically delivered by NATO aircraft, significantlyraise the margin for error and make the unintendedrisks to civilians far greater. 30“The high degree of damage caused by largeaircraft bombs, and the large ‘beaten zone’ of airto-groundcannon fire, all of which – it is argued– increase the risk of significant collateral damagedespite the best efforts to avoid it.” 31Accordingly, the use of air strikes in populatedareas clearly requires particularly strong policiesand procedures.

Air power in Afghanistan | 9In the first years of fighting in Afghanistan, “Targetingdirectives were widely drawn with authority forrelease of certain types of weapon – such as largehigh explosive bombs being devolved to comparativelylow levels of command – and the RoEs[were] liberally interpreted to give the best chanceof survival to the supported troops.” 39NATO has even admitted that initially flights tookoff with more bombs than they were allowed toreturn with, and that pilots had to drop them inorder to even land. 40“Whenthis kicked off, theywere launching aircraft withunrecoverable loads. Basically,you had to drop. That’s allchanged.”Lt. Cmdr. Peter Morgan, The New York Times,July 2012 41Air strikes fall broadly into two separate categories,pre-planned or responsive.Offensive strikesPre-planned strikes are typically offensive. Aerialbombing is only authorised after a complex biddingprocess.In this process, each unit that wants an air strikeas part of its forthcoming operation has to fillout an application form called a Joint Tactical AirRequest (JTAR). They have to plan out the likelyprocess and outcome of the strike, and conducta thorough collateral damage estimate. Collateraldamage is a military term for the incidental killingand injuring of civilians, as well as the destructionof homes, shops and other civilian objects.As one of the five ‘pillars’ that make up the procedurefor a planned air strike, forces are requiredto predict how many civilians might die (see page10). According to British Air Force personnel “Thishas become increasingly sophisticated over thecampaign and now takes the form of a story board[…] only 12 years ago, in the Kosovo conflict forexample, the same thing was accomplished byvoice transmission over a radio net or a simplepre-formatted fax message.” 42These requests are then transmitted to the CombinedAir Operations Centre (CAOC), located atRegional Command level. It is at this level that ajudgement is made whether the possible impacton civilians exceeds the limits outlined by the RoEand international law. 43Defensive strikesThe other type of strike is referred to within NATOas ‘responsive air support’. This is where fighterjets are scrambled in response to a developingemergency, and are typically defensive in nature(e.g. bombing to protect troops on the ground).The offensive process as described above doesnot apply to the same extent with responsivestrikes. Any similar planning process is carried outin ‘real time’ as the aircraft moves to the target,and can take as little as three minutes from a callbeing made to the aircraft arriving overhead. 44NATO’s RoE insist that forces calculate the likelycost to civilians, but these are usually hasty,conducted under stress conditions, and “theinherent imperfections in these speedy estimatesare a major factor behind many civilian casualtyincidents.” 45In discussions with AOAV, senior UK air forcepersonnel confirmed that the conditions in whichthese strikes take place give far more leeway tocommanders and pilots, including their choiceof weapon: “Inevitably due to the ad hoc natureof such air support there is no guarantee that the(platform) aircraft is the type best suited to thetask, or that its weaponry is best suited to the task.This causes complications and requires quickjudgements as to whether it offers sufficient utilityin the situation or whether it represents a use ofweapons that are disallowed under the terms ofextant RoE.” 46Human Rights Watch in their 2008 analysis of airstrikes in Afghanistan found that civilian casualtiesalmost always occurred in these fluid, rapidresponsestrikes. 47

10 | Action on Armed ViolenceThe Five pillars of Targeting have been used throughoutthe conflict in Afghanistan by NATO forces.• The requirement to positively identify the target prior to an air mission and then to reacquireand maintain positive visual contact with it throughout the air support mission from initialrequest/proposal to weapons release.• The pattern of life in the target area, for example the exit of large numbers of the populationprior to a coalition operation is an indicator that the area may have been taken over by enemyfighters intent on attacking coalition forces.• The requirement to conduct a mathematical collateral damage estimate - taking into accountthe weapons to be used and the type of target.• The requirement for positive visual identification of the target from the attacking platformconfirmed with the attack controller, who is often, but need not be, part of the force beingsupported.• Clearance to attack from the appropriate level of command at which a type of attack canauthorised. The level depends on the type of target to be attacked, the type of weapons to beused and any assessment of collateral damage likely to be caused. This can change on a dayto day basis.Source: British Forward Air Controllers in Afghanistan, 2006-2014 482008: ThE TuRNINg pOINTAir power, always an integral part of NATO’smilitary strategy in Afghanistan, became steadilymore important in the years leading up to 2008.The number of NATO’s strikes sorties (a flight inwhich a munition was dropped) climbed yearlybetween 2004 and 2008.In 2007 alone almost 3,000 bombing raids werecarried out (see Figure 2), an increase of 65% from2006. 49There was “a massive and unprecedented surgein the use of airpower in Afghanistan in 2008. Inresponse to increased insurgent activity, twice asmany tons of bombs were dropped in 2007 thanin 2006. In 2008, the pace […] increased: in themonths of June and July alone the US droppedapproximately as much as it did in all of 2006.” 50As the number of strikes rose, so too did the civiliandeath rate. Aerial bombing in 2007 killed 321Afghan civilians. This was almost three times asmany as in 2006, when 116 people died. 51By 2008, there were 552 civilian deaths from airstrikes in Afghanistan, up 72% from the previousyear. 52 The United Nations Assistance Mission toAfghanistan (UNAMA) found that amid rising levelsof armed violence across the country, a quarter ofall civilian deaths were being caused by air strikes(26%). Moreover, it was civilians and not armedactors who were bearing the brunt of aerial bombing,making up 64% of the total death toll fromaerial bombing. 53It was clear that the expansion of air power inresponse to insurgent activity was killing thewrong people.

Air power in Afghanistan | 11The spiralling death toll among Afghan civiliansbrought strident criticism of NATO’s conduct andapproach. In November 2008, the United Nationsaccused NATO of committing grave violationsagainst the rights of Afghan children, as a resultof aerial bombardment and ground attacks withimprecise targeting or mistaken identity. 54In 2008 Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that“The combination of light ground forces andoverwhelming airpower has become the dominantdoctrine of war for the US in Afghanistan.The result has been large numbers of civiliancasualties, controversy over the continued use ofairpower in Afghanistan, and intense criticism ofUS and NATO forces by Afghan political leadersand the general public.” 55The impact of air strikes on civilians fuelled resentmentof NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, andundermined support for the government itself. 56Within NATO, the political pressure and publicscrutiny helped to drive home the urgent needfor change. It was recognised internally that:“targeting directives suitable for an earlier andmore desperate phase of the campaign wereno longer suitable, and the degree of collateraldamage being inflicted was disproportionate tothe evolving threat posed by the enemy and theirrevised tactics.” 572008 can, therefore, be considered a turning pointfor the conduct of NATO air strikes in Afghanistan,and is taken by AOAV as the start-date foranalysis in this report. Between 2008 and 2014NATO introduced new measures to reduce thecivilian suffering from air strikes. These changesto policy did not seek to end the use of air strikescompletely, but gradually sought to change theconditions in which they could be used. NATO hadto learn from its tragic mistakes in the first yearsof its operation in Afghanistan.This report investigates three specific instancesafter 2008 in which NATO amended the RoE for airstrikes in Afghanistan. It charts a broad improvementin the protection of civilians as a result ofa steady reduction in the use of these strikes inpopulated areas.Figure one: NATO’s strike sorties in Afganistan 2004-07 (CSIS)30002926250020001770150010005000861762004200520062007Figure 2: NATO’s strike sorties in Afganistan 2004-07 (CSIS)

12 | Action on Armed Violence2008-09: AzizAbAd Andthe MCChrystAl direCtiveAzIzAbAD: ThE ATTACkCivilian casualties from air strikes in Afghanistanpeaked in 2008. August 2008 was a particulardeadly month, largely because of a single air strikeincident on 22 August in the village of Azizabad. 58Ninety-two civilians, including 62 children, werekilled when Azizabad was bombed by NATO ISAFforces overnight. 59The village lies near the Shindand Air Base in easternHerat province. NATO and Afghan governmentforces had been patrolling the village when theycame under attack with gunfire and rocket-propelledgrenades (RPGs). 60 Following a 30 minutefirefight, US forces called for air support.What followed were between 2-3 hours of airstrikes in and around Azizabad village, involvingmultiple aircraft including a Lockheed AC-130H Spectre gunship. The AC-130 has beennicknamed “The Angel of Death,” and was usedexclusively at the time by US forces according tofield reports made available by Wikileaks. 61Among the heavy explosive weapons dropped onthe village was at least one 500-pound bomb, aswell as shelling from the gunship’s M102 105mmhowitzer. 62 The M102 was originally developedas a towed howitzer for soldiers on the ground.Although no longer used by these ground forces,it has since been modified for the AC-130 tobecome “the world’s biggest flying artillery gun.” 63The M102 howitzer launches ten artillery shells perminute. Each of these shells contains ten poundsof high explosive TNT, and projects blast andfragmentation over a wide area. It can have lethaleffects across an area of up to 1,500 yards. 64“The destruction from aerial bombardment wasclearly evident with some 7-8 houses having beentotally destroyed and serious damage to manyothers,” said UN human rights investigators whovisited the site. 65Many of the 62 children who were killed hadsuffered blast and concussion wounds in theattacks. 66 The villagers were preparing for aceremony in memory of a prominent tribal figure,Taimoor Shah, who had died a few months earlier.67 As a result, there were more people gatheredin one place than usual, since extended familieshad travelled to the village and were cookingtogether for the event on the next day. 68Rooms were crowded with up to 10 or 20 people ineach, and most of those killed died in their sleep. 69“[…]shell craters dotted thecourtyards and shrapnel hadgouged holes in the walls. Roomshad collapsed […] The smell ofbodies lingered in one compound,causing villagers to start diggingwith spades. They found the bodyof a baby, caked in dust, in thecorner of a bombed-out room.”Investigators from The New York Times,Azizabad, 31 August 2008 70ThE AFTERMAThThe exact total of civilian casualties was a matterof dispute for months after the attack.Initial US-led investigations claimed that sevencivilians had died at Azizabad, and that therehad been more than 30 armed actor deaths. Thisinquiry was condemned by human rights groupsfor dismissing villager testimonies, and making

14 | Action on Armed Violence“Securitymay not come from overwhelming firepower […] Large scaleoperations to kill or capture militants carry a significant risk of causingcivilian casualties and collateral damage. If civilians die in a firefight, itdoes not matter who shot them – we still failed to protect them from harm.Destroying a home or property jeopardizes the livelihood of an entire family– and creates more insurgents. We sow the seeds of our own demise.”ISAF Commander’s Counterinsurgency Guidance 81outcome more than traditional measures, likecapture of terrain or attrition of enemy forces.We must avoid the trap of winning tactical victories– but suffering strategic defeats – by causingcivilian casualties or excessive damage and thusalienating the people.” 82McChrystal’s Directive challenged a readinessto use excessive force among NATO forces. Ithighlighted the particular threats to civilians fromthe use of explosive weapons in populated areas:“The use of air-to-ground munitions and indirectfires against residential compounds is onlyauthorized under very limited and prescribedconditions (specific conditions deleted due tooperational security).” 83The McChrystal Directive marked a sea-change inthe attitudes of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Rhetoricallyat least, it put civilian protection measuresat the heart of the ongoing military strategy. Thenew RoE were the direct result of Azizabad and© SSGT Davis-US Air ForceAC-130 crew load 105mm M102 howitzers (foreground) during a training mission.

Air power in Afghanistan | 15other destructive aerial bombing incidents inAfghan villages. They recognised that the use ofpowerful or potentially imprecise weaponry inpopulated areas would likely lead to unintendedcivilian deaths.Crucially it foresaw the strategic disadvantage ofbeing seen to cause civilian casualties, in additionto the moral absolutes. This is particularly the casein a conflict where protecting civilians from harmand improving their security was part of the originalmandate for fighting. As one European officialcommented at the time, “Killing civilians is not thebest way to attract hearts and minds.” 84in 2008, NATO continued to cause civilian casualtiesin populated areas through aerial bombing.In fact, the single deadliest air strike incident inthe entire course of the war took place just threemonths after McChrystal’s Directives were issued.The Kunduz bombing (the subject of pages 16-17)was made something of a tragic anomaly by theMcChrystal Directives, but showed that theserules alone had to mark the beginning of a processto improve civilian protection, not the end point.The McChrystal Directive also affirmed thatsimple measures could be introduced that wouldeffectively reduce the likelihood of causing morecivilian casualties. These were practical, pragmaticpolicies that sought to give greater clarityto commanders on the ground in terms of how toachieve military aims while using the least damagingweapon first. 85The new RoE made it harder for NATO to useaerial explosive weapons in populated areas.On 8 September 2009 for example, ISAF forcescalled for artillery support to counter an ambush inthe village of Ganjal but the requests were repeatedlydenied by their commanders who feared theindirect-fire artillery would inflict civilian casualties.Although the US Department of Defenserefuted the idea that artillery support was deniedbecause of McChrystal’s Tactical Directive, duringthe investigation of the incident, one officer laterstated that fire support was denied “for variousreasons including: lack of situational awareness oflocations of friendly elements [and] proximityto the village.” 86However, while the Directives sought to limitopportunities to use heavy aircraft bombs in populatedareas, it did not prohibit it. It still allowedfor the bombing of villages, and while it describedthe conditions in which it was permitted as “verylimited,” the actual conditions themselves areclassified, and as such could cover any numberof scenarios.Certainly, while the civilian death rate from airstrikes in Afghanistan was never as high again as

Air power in Afghanistan | 17In 2008, NATO ISAF created the Civilian CasualtyTracking Cell (CCTC). This was the first large-scalecivilian casualty data tracking mechanism everundertaken by a warring party. 97 Its instigationwas a pragmatic measure. The absence of asystematic casualty-recording practice exposedNATO to allegations of causing civilian casualtiesthat it could not credibly refute. It spoke of a weakcommitment to mitigating civilian harm and madepublic statements to the contrary look hollow.The CCTC was a positive and important measure,allowing NATO ISAF to recognise and changeharmful tactics, like bombing in populated areas,which put civilians at particular risk. 98 It demonstratedthat an armed force can record thecasualties caused through its actions, and that itis desirable to do so.However, there were still significant weaknessesin the CCTC. For example, it could not recordthe wider harm sustained by civilians from NATObombing and attacks, such as damage to homes.In October 2014, AOAV submitted a Freedom ofInformation request to the UK Ministry of Defenceasking for information on the number of civiliancasualties resulting from UK-led air strikes inAfghanistan. The response revealed that thereis still an absence of systematic data collectionamong individual NATO member states.“We deeply regret all civilian casualties,” said theresponse, dated 19 December 2014, “While weinvestigate carefully all alleged incidents involvingUK forces, the Government does not recordtotal figures for civilian casualties in Afghanistanbecause of the immense difficulty and risksthat would be involved in collecting robust data.” 99The “immense difficulty” in collecting data doesnot justify a refusal from the Government to evenattempt to gather information about civilian casualtiesresulting from incidents involving UK forces.AOAV calls on states, international organisationsand NGOs to gather and make available data onthe impacts of explosive weapons.ACCOuNTAbILITy FAILINgSUnder NATO guidance, each nation is responsiblefor providing compensation to victims of itsactions and there was no universal schedule forcompensation. 100A year after the attack, the German military saidthat it would pay the equivalent of $5,000 eachto 102 Afghan families of victims of the Kunduzattack; a payment that was to be made for‘humanitarian reasons’ rather than as a recognitionof any legal obligation. 101In March 2013, Afghan civilians sued the GermanMinistry of Defense. 102 Seventy-nine families arecurrently seeking compensation amounting to$4.3 million in what the German-Afghan lawyerleading the case has called a “barbaric crime.” 103In November 2013 the District Court of Bonnrejected the first two claims, saying that theycould not find a violation of IHL in the actions ofthe German commander, and that there was noobligation to provide compensation to individualvictims. 104Germany’s years of failing to provide any meaningfulredress or assistance to victims of theKunduz strike reflects a weak accountabilityframework for NATO member states.In August 2014, Amnesty International investigatedten incidents between 2009 and 2013 inwhich US/NATO military operations caused civiliancasualties. None of these ten cases, in which morethan 140 civilians died, were prosecuted by theUS military. Moreover only six cases from Afghanistanhave been brought to court in the last fiveyears. 105 Amnesty called for NATO ISAF to makepublic the findings of their investigative teams, topress its member states to take legal responsibilityfor their actions, and to provide full reparation tovictims of its military operations. 106AOAV believes that the users of explosive weaponsshould work towards the full realisation of therights of victims, including those killed and injured,their families, and affected communities.

18 | Action on Armed Violence2012: sAjAwAnd Andthe Allen orderNATO’s engagement in Afghanistan after 2008 didnot simply see a smooth trajectory towards evertighterrestrictions on the use of aerial explosiveweapons.McChrystal’s 2009 Tactical Directives set progressivenew standards for civilian protection. Theymade avoiding civilian casualties a strategicpriority for NATO ISAF. However, the Directive ledto pushback from forces. There was a perceptionamong NATO ground forces that the tighter RoEwere too rigid, and as such were leading to casualtieswithin NATO ranks as troops were no longerable to call on powerful air support as readily. 107In 2010, the RoE were relaxed from the 2009standards by McChrystal’s successor GeneralDavid Petraeus. 108 Petraeus had previously led USfighting in Iraq, and was described as “the manin Iraq to row back from the indiscriminate useof force but he is not allergic to the use of heavyWhile maintaining a rhetorical emphasis on avoidingcivilian casualties, under Petraeus NATOISAF’s rules tilted the balance back towards prioritisingtroop protection. This meant allowing heavyfirepower in the interests of keeping soldiers safer.In August 2010 Petraeus issued his own TacticalDirective, which called for a more aggressiveapproach to operations. 110 These new rulesauthorised the use of “firepower needed to win afight.” 111 Under McChrystal the doctrine had beenone of restraint. Now it was about ‘disciplined useof force’, which meant fewer restrictions on theconditions in which force could be used, so longas it still met the requirements of IHL.The Directive did not explicitly relate to the practiceof aerial bombing, but its guidance for usingartillery fire suggested that commanders hadgreater leeway to call upon heavy explosive weaponryduring operations. 112weapons Figure and three: air power Civilian against deaths an enemy from area.” 109NATO ISAF air operations (UNAMA)60050040030020010002008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014(Jan-July)Figure 3: Civilian deaths from NATO ISAF air operations (UNAMA)

Air power in Afghanistan | 19As Figure 3 shows, in the year following the implementationof these more liberal RoE, civilian deathsfrom air strikes began to climb again in 2011.Further change was clearly required.ThE ATTACkOn 6 June 2012, at least 18 civilians were killed ina night time air strike on the village of Sajawandin eastern Logar province. 113 Four women, threeteenage boys, and nine young children wereamong the dead. All were from the same extendedfamily who had gathered to celebrate a wedding inthe home of village elder Bashir Akhundzada.Taliban fighters had occupied a house neighbouringthe one in which the wedding party were celebrating.The militants shot at NATO and Afghan troops, whosurrounded the building and called for civilians toleave the wider area before calling in an air strike. 114The resulting strike destroyed the targeted housein which the Taliban fighters were based, killing atleast six militants inside. 115It also completely destroyed the neighbouringhome in which the civilian wedding party wastaking place. 116in Afghanistan, General John Allen visited thevillage of Sajawand and expressed his regrets tothe provincial governor of Logar Province: “I havechildren of my own, and I feel the pain of this […]we will do the right thing by the families.” 119As with the attacks in Azizabad and Kunduz, theSajawand bombing caused significant reputationaldamage to NATO ISAF. The attack wascondemned by President Kazai as unacceptableand unjustifiable. 120 In response to the incident,some of the local villagers gathered the bodiesand drove them into the capital of Logar provincein order to protest the strike. 121The sense of public outrage was manipulatedfurther by Taliban militants who closed schoolsin areas under their control to protest thebombing. 122ThE ALLEN ORDERSNATO’s policy response was swift.Just six days after Sajawand, NATO publiclyannounced a change in their policies for theuse of explosive weapons in populated areas inAfghanistan. The ISAF statement on air-droppedmunitions read:“Inthese houses nobody hasbeen left alive. All are martyredwhether they were male, femaleor children. They were not Taliban,they haven’t fought with anyone,they haven’t attacked anyone,”“Today, in accordance with our understandingwith Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Gen.John R. Allen, commander, International SecurityAssistance Force and United States Forces-Afghanistan, gave the order to coalition forcesthat no aerial munitions be delivered againstcivilian dwellings. This measure is a furtherstep in our efforts to protect the lives of Afghancivilians.Sayed Ahmad, villager, June 2012 117ThE AFTERMAThNATO initially confirmed the air strike but deniedreports that civilians were among those killed,claiming that only two women had sufferedinjuries. 118 However, following its own furtherinvestigations that revealed the true cost of thestrike, the top commander of US and NATO troopsOther conventional methods will be deployed againstthe insurgents, in coordination with Afghan NationalSecurity Forces. As always, Afghan and coalitionforces retain the inherent right to use aerial munitionsin self-defense if no other options are available.” 123The Allen order of 12 June 2012 goes beyond thepreviously most-progressive RoE established byMcChrystal in 2009 by stipulating that bombscannot be used against civilian homes in any circumstancesbarring self-defence.

20 | Action on Armed ViolenceHowever, while seemingly clear, there was stillpotential for inconsistencies in interpretation ofthis new RoE. The parameters of what constituteslegitimate self-defence have long been a sensitiveissue not only in Afghanistan but for manymilitaries. 124How a ‘civilian dwelling’ is defined is arguably themost pressing issue in this case. The offices of theAfghan President provided a strong interpretationof the policy change, saying that “from now on theNATO force will never bombard the people’s homesand villages, and that they will completely stop thisact.” 125 However, in announcing the new policy, amilitary spokesman said that NATO would continueto target insurgents in residential areas but “whenthere is concern over the presence of civilians, airdelivered bombs will not be employed while othermeans are available;” a much weaker guarantee. 126Seven months previously General Allen hadattempted to clarify the appropriate operationaldefinition of a civilian home. In his own TacticalDirective on 30 November 2011, Allen tellseach and every NATO commander to presume100that: “Every Afghan is a civilian unless otherwiseapparent; All compounds are civilian structuresuntil otherwise apparent; In every location wherethere is evidence of human habitation, civilians arepresent until otherwise apparent.” 127Through this directive, Allen clarifies thatcommanders should operate under an initialpresumption that all buildings are civilian unlessdemonstrably proven otherwise.At the time of the Sajawand attack, NATO claimedthat they typically avoided striking civilian buildingsand that only 19 of the 3,531 air strikes theycarried out in the first six months of 2012 hadtaken place in these locations. At least five ofthese incidents resulted in civilian casualties. 128This finding tallies with AOAV research. AOAVhas monitored the impact of explosive weaponsaround the world since 2011, using English-languagemedia sources.AOAV data on NATO air strikes in Afghanistanbetween 1 January and 1 June 2012 documentsseven aerial attacks in populated areas thatresulted in civilian casualties. Between them thesestrikes caused 63 civilian casualties.8060405676The way in which the use of an explosive weaponin populated areas affects the makeup of resultingdeaths and injuries is starkly manifest in figurefour. 129 Overall in the months leading to SajawandAOAV recorded a total of 21 air strikes that causedcasualties. Of the 142 deaths and injuries, 44%were civilians. In the air strikes that took place inpopulated areas, civilians made up 95% of thereported casualties. That fell to just 8% in thestrikes away from civilian dwellings.2003PopulatedCivilians7Not reportedas populatedArmed actorsFigure four: Breakdown of casualties recorded fromNATO air strikes (1 January – 1 June 2012) – AOAVThe Allen orders issued either side of theSajawand bombing helped to reaffirm a startingpoint not only that explosive weapons shouldnot be used in populated areas, but that an areashould be presumed to be populated by civiliansunless there was clear evidence to the contrary.These measures helped to raise the threshold foracceptable use of heavy explosive weapons, andundoubtedly helped shape the overall decline incivilian casualties from aerial bombing that is illustratedin figure three (page 18).

Air power in Afghanistan | 212013: ChAwgAM Andthe kArzAi deCreeIn 2013, civilian casualties from air strikes inAfghanistan fell by ten percent from the previousyear. 130 While this was a clear decline, UNAMAstill recorded 182 civilian casualties in 2013,including 118 deaths. NATO’s aerial operationswere responsible for 19% of the civilian casualtiescaused by pro-government forces in Afghanistan.Kunar, a remote eastern province along the Pakistanborder, was the location of extensive armed violencein 2013. Almost a third of all the civilian deathsfrom air strikes that year took place in Kunar. 131ThE ATTACkAt 3am on 13 February 2013 fourteen people diedin a NATO air strike in the village of Chawgam inKunar province.Ten were civilians, including a man, four womenand five children. 132 The dead all came from twolocal families. 133Four Taliban insurgents were also killed as theymet at a neighbouring house in the village nextdoor in the village. 134NATO claimed to have been targeting these fourmilitants, and were responding to a request forair support from a combined NATO and Afghanground patrol. 135As with the Sajawand bombing in 2012, the attackappears to have succeeded in its aim of taking outa military objective. However, just as in Sajawand,it also caused severe ‘collateral damage’ in apopulated area. It seemed that in spite of theadvances made by NATO since the dark days of2008 its use of air strikes still carried a terriblepotential for causing civilian casualties.ThE AFTERMAThThe Chawgam attack came just days after theUnited Nations Committee on the Rights of theChild had issued a report criticising US militaryforces in Afghanistan for killing hundreds ofchildren in the previous four year through airstrikes and ground attacks. The report had condemnedthe US, and by extension NATO ISAF,for a “reported lack of precautionary measuresand indiscriminate use of force.” 136NATO ISAF had attempted to dismiss the UN’saccusations. It issued a statement: “Strict rulesapply to the use of air-delivered munitions,particularly when civilians may be present andwhenever there is a possibility of striking a civilianstructure.” 137How then did an air strike appear to take place injust such a circumstance?After Chawgam, NATO leadership was heavilycriticised for exceeding the limits set out in itsown existing RoE. 138 Investigations into theincident were ordered both by NATO and byPresident Karzai. 139ThE kARzAI DECREEOn this occasion, policy change was instigatedoutside NATO ISAF’s internal lesson-learningmechanisms.On 19 February 2013, Afghan President HamidKarzai issued a new decree stating that “NoAfghan security forces, under any circumstances[sic.], can ask for the foreigners’ planes for carryingout operations on our homes and villages. Duringyour operations, do not call for air support frominternational forces during operations on residentialareas.” 140

22 | Action on Armed ViolenceThe Karzai decree did not necessitate any wholesaleredrafting of NATO’s own RoE, but insteadfurther reduced the circumstances in which airstrikes were viable in Afghanistan.NATO took steps to integrate Karzai’s decree intoits existing RoE. New technical measures wereintroduced to ensure Karzai’s decree was enforceableduring the final months of NATO’s operationin Afghanistan. General Joseph Dunford, who hadtaken command of NATO’s forces just three daysbefore the Chawgam attack, said that NATO was“prepared to provide support in line with the president’sintent […] There are other ways to supportthe Afghans besides aviation.” 141enough to allow air strikes in certain small orremote populated areas such as Chawgam.This old ambiguity is evaded in Karzai’s decree,which states as an absolute that there can be nocircumstance in which Afghan forces can demandair support from NATO aircraft, if they are within apopulated area.It made explicit the connection between civilianharm and the physical environment in which anair strike was carried out. It helped to drive homea process over several years in which NATO’sapproach had moved from asking can an aircraftbomb a target to should it bomb the target. 142Karzai’s decree was important for two reasons.First, as NATO ISAF began its withdrawal process,responsibility for security operations was increasinglybeing handed over to Afghan national forces.Karzai’s decree pre-empted a regression in policiesback to a more trigger-happy approach to airstrikes in support of Afghan forces.Second, the unequivocal language of the decreealso lay a benchmark for NATO when drafting new,progressive RoE. In the case of the Chawgambombing, it is unclear from an external perspectivewhether the attack definitively exceeded therestrictions expressed in the Allen orders of 2011and June 2012, or whether the definitions of civiliandwellings and self-defence are ambiguous© US Navy, Lt. Steve LightstoneTwo 500lb GBU-12 bombs and an AIM-9 ‘Sidewinder’missile on the wing of an F/A-18 fighter jet in Afghanistan,31 October 2001.

24 | Action on Armed Violenceto uphold the strongest standards in the use ofweapons that might endanger civilians in whosename they claim to be fighting.INhERENT ThREATFinally, as far as NATO’s policies have progressedsince 2008, civilian casualties from air strikes arestill all too common in Afghanistan, even as internationalinvolvement draws to a close. On 6 April2013, at least 13 civilians died when bombs fittedwith an airburst fuse exploded near the room inwhich they were sheltering in the village of Suno,Kunar. 145These bombs detonate above ground, creatingshockwaves that can have a devastating effectin enclosed areas. 146 This use of multiple largebombs whose effects were hard to contain in apopulated area was criticised by the UN. 147The Suno incident in April 2013 shows that evenwith the incremental changes made to advancecivilian protection in Afghanistan, there will alwaysbe a risk of civilian casualties whenever heavyexplosive weapons are used in or near populatedareas.AOAV believes there is a need for stronger standardsagainst the use of explosive weapons withwide-area effects in populated areas. Stopping theuse of these weapons in populated areas wouldsave civilian lives both during attacks and in thelonger-term. 148

Air power in Afghanistan | 25reCoMMendAtions• State forces should immediately end the useof explosive weapons with wide-area effectsin populated areas, and work collectively withothers towards an international commitmentaimed at preventing such use.• In line with the October 2014 request fromthe United Nations Secretary-General to allMember States, states should take this opportunityto share examples of good practice andpolicy in the use of explosive weapons withwide-area effects in populated areas. 149• States should recognise the pattern of unacceptableharm caused by the use of explosiveweapons in populated areas, and shouldpublicly condemn any such use at everyopportunity, including but not limited to theUN Security Council debates on the Protectionof Civilians.• States, international organisations, and nongovernmentalorganisations should gather andmake available data on the impacts of explosiveweapons. More should be done to protectand support the organisations and individualsthat work to gather such data.• States and users of explosive weapons shouldwork towards the full realisation of the rights ofvictims of explosive weapons, including thosekilled and injured, their families, and affectedcommunities. NATO ISAF member statesshould make full reparations to the victims ofits military operations, including its use of airstrikes.• NATO ISAF should work with the AfghanNational Security Forces to ensure that itadopts fully the most progressive examplesof policies in the use of explosive weaponsin populated areas. This should continue toinclude all necessary training, both in weaponuse and in international humanitarian law (IHL).• NATO ISAF should transfer the management ofits civilian casualty tracking mechanism to theAfghan government, and should provide sufficientfunding and training resources to ensurethat every casualty of armed violence in thecountry is recorded.

26 | Action on Armed Violenceendnotes1 Bård Glad Pedersen, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs ofNorway, “Use of explosive weapons in populated areas,” Oslo, 17June 2014, 2 December 2014).2 “US strikes at Afghan targets,” BBC, 7 October 2001, (accessed 19December 2014).3 It should be noted that in addition to armed violence carried outunder the NATO umbrella, the US has led Operation EnduringFreedom (OEF), independent of NATO’s command. This reportvariously refers to NATO and NATO ISAF. Many non-state armedactors have been present in Afghanistan during the course of theconflict, and operate under a myriad of different motivations andapproaches.4 United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 1386 (2001),”20 December 2001, (accessed 17 December 2014).5 Astrik Suhrke, “Disjointed Incrementalism: NATO in Afghanistan,”PRIO Policy Brief, March 2011, (accessed 14 December 2014).6 North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO operations andmissions,” ISAF Total Strength on 7 November 2014 stood at 28,360, withthe majority of troops coming from US (64%), UK (10%), Italy(5%) and Germany (5%). NATO International Security AssistanceForce, “Key Facts and Figures,” 7 November 2014, (accessed 17 December 2014).8 “NATO and Afghanistan,” Last updated 27 August 2014, (accessed 17 December2014).9 “The Impact of Explosive Weapons: three years of data, 2011-2013,” Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), 1 December 2014, 1 December 2014).10 80% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan from explosive violencerecorded by AOAV between 2011-2013 were caused byimprovised explosive devices (IEDs) including roadside bombs,car bombs and suicide attacks. “The Impact of ExplosiveWeapons: three years of data, 2011-2013,” Action on ArmedViolence (AOAV), 1 December 2014, (accessed 1 December 2014).While this report is an investigation into the way in which the useof aerially-deployed explosive weapons has changed during thecourse of the war in Afghanistan, IEDs continue to be the mainthreat to civilians in the country, and will likely continue to kill andinjure large numbers in the future.11 Colonel Francesco Turrisi, “Air Power Post-Afghanistan,” Joint Air& Space Power Conference, Journal Edition 18, 2013, (accessed 19 December 2014).12 “Blair statement in full,” BBC, 7 October 2001, (accessed 19 December2014).13 Human Rights Watch, “Troops in Contact: Airstrikes andCivilian Deaths in Afghanistan,” September 2008, (accessed 18 December2014).14 See for example comments made by General Petraeus, whoasserted “we’re taking steps to keep civilian casualties at anabsolute minimum […] we have reduced them vey substantiallyand even the United Nations noted that even in a period wherewe have greatly expanded our forces as I’ve mentioned, increasedby some 80-odd-thousand, those civilian casualties attributed toour operations have been reduced by some 30%. That is a quitean accomplishment.” “ISAF Commander General David Petraeusinterviewed on Afghanistan,” NATO, 31 August 2010, 14 December 2014).15 International Network on Explosive Weapons, www.inew.org16 NATO Legal Deskbook, second edition 2010, available fordownload at For more information see, Maya Brehm, “UnacceptableRisk,” Pax, October 2014, Available for download from 28 November 2014).18 ICRC, “Customary IHL Database,” (accessed 7 December 2014).19 Maya Brehm, “Protecting Civilians from the Effects of ExplosiveWeapons,” UNIDIR, New York and Geneva, 2012, 8 December 2014)/20 Human Rights Watch, “Troops in Contact: Airstrikes andCivilian Deaths in Afghanistan,” September 2008, (accessed 18 December2014).21 MC 362/1, “NATO Rules of Engagement,” 2003, cited in NATOLegal Deskbook, second edition 2010, available for download at Graphic referenced from J. Ashley-Roach, Rules-of-EngagementNaval War College Review, February 1983.23 See North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “The Military Committee,”last updated 11 November 2014 NATO Legal Deskbook, second edition 2010, available for downloadat p.261.25 “NATO’s RoE also note that national “restrictions and instructionsmay not be more permissive than the authorized operationalRoE.” NATO Legal Deskbook, second edition 2010, available fordownload at 157.26 Interviews with British Forward Air Controller on his experiencesin Operation HERRICK, the British contribution to ISAF operationsin Afghanistan 2006 – 2014 in Ian Biddle, “The Use and Controlof Tactical Airpower in Afghanistan,” Research Paper for AOAV,December 2014.27 Human Rights Watch, “Troops in Contact: Airstrikes andCivilian Deaths in Afghanistan,” September 2008, (accessed 18 December2014).28 See for example, United Nations Assistance Mission toAfghanistan, “Afghanistan Mid-Year Report 2014, Protection ofCivilians in Armed Conflict,” July 2014, (accessed 19 December 2014).29 Interviews with British Forward Air Controller on his experiencesin Operation HERRICK, the British contribution to ISAF operationsin Afghanistan 2006 – 2014 in Ian Biddle, “The Use and Controlof Tactical Airpower in Afghanistan,” Research Paper for AOAV,December 2014.30 Ian Biddle, “The Use and Control of Tactical Airpower inAfghanistan,” Research Paper for AOAV, December 2014.31 Ian Biddle, “The Use and Control of Tactical Airpower inAfghanistan,” Research Paper for AOAV, December 2014.

28 | Action on Armed Violence62 “Letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on US Airstrikes inAzizabad, Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch, 14 January 2009, 20 December2014).63 Christopher Leake, “The ‘Angel of Death’: Special Forces’ latestweapon is biggest flying howitzer in the world,” Daily Mail,1 August 2010, 22 December 2014).64 Christopher Leake, “The ‘Angel of Death’: Special Forces’ latestweapon is biggest flying howitzer in the world,” Daily Mail,1 August 2010, 22 December 2014).65 UN News Centre, “At least 90 Afghan civilians killed in recentmilitary operations, says UN,” 26 August 2008, (accessed 20December 2014).66 Carlotta Gall, “Evidence Points to Civilian Toll in Afghan Raid,”The New York Times, 7 September 2008, 20 December 2014).67 Second Lieutenant Brendan Groves, USAFR, “Civil-MilitaryCooperation in Civilian Casualty Investigations: Lessons Learnedfrom the Azizabad Attack,” The Air Force Law Review, Vol. 65,2010, (accessed 20 December 2014).68 Second Lieutenant Brendan Groves, USAFR, “Civil-MilitaryCooperation in Civilian Casualty Investigations: Lessons Learnedfrom the Azizabad Attack,” The Air Force Law Review, Vol. 65,2010, (accessed 20 December 2014).69 Carlotta Gall, “Evidence Points to Civilian Toll in Afghan Raid,”The New York Times, 7 September 2008, 20 December 2014).70 Carlotta Gall, “Evidence Points to Civilian Toll in Afghan Raid,”The New York Times, 7 September 2008, 20 December 2014).71 Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: US Investigation of AirstrikeDeaths ‘Deeply Flawed’”, 15 January 2009, 20 December 2014).72 Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: US Investigation of AirstrikeDeaths ‘Deeply Flawed’”, 15 January 2009, 20 December 2014).73 Second Lieutenant Brendan Groves, USAFR, “Civil-MilitaryCooperation in Civilian Casualty Investigations: Lessons Learnedfrom the Azizabad Attack,” The Air Force Law Review, Vol. 65,2010, (accessed 20 December 2014).74 See UNAMA Protection of Civilians report 2008, and AbdulWaheed Wafa & John F. Burns, “U.S. Airstrike Reported to HitAfghan Wedding,” The New York Times, 5 November 2008, 20 December 2014).75 Afghan President Karzai, cited in Abdul Waheed Wafa & John F.Burns, “U.S. Airstrike Reported to Hit Afghan Wedding,” The NewYork Times, 5 November 2008, (accessed 20 December 2014).76 Abdul Waheed Wafa & John F. Burns, “U.S. Airstrike Reported toHit Afghan Wedding,” The New York Times, 5 November 2008, 20 December 2014).77 “Afghanistan: Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in ArmedConflict, 2008,” United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan(UNAMA), January 2009, (accessed 20 December 2014).78 “Afghanistan: Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in ArmedConflict, 2008,” United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan(UNAMA), January 2009, (accessed 20 December 2014).79 “Afghanistan: Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in ArmedConflict, 2008,” United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan(UNAMA), January 2009, (accessed 20 December 2014).80 NATO/ISAF UNCLASS, Tactical Directive, 6 July 2009, 1 December 2014).81 ISAF Commander’s Counterinsurgency Guidance, 27 August2009, available for download from (accessed 22December 2014).82 NATO/ISAF UNCLASS, Tactical Directive, 6 July 2009, 1 December 2014).83 NATO/ISAF UNCLASS, Tactical Directive, 6 July 2009, 1 December 2014).84 Richard Norton-Taylor and Julian Borger, “Nato tightens rules ofengagement to limit further civilian casualties in Afghanistan,” TheGuardian, 9 September 2008, (accessed 16 December 2014).85 Ian Biddle, “The Use and Control of Tactical Airpower inAfghanistan,” Research Paper for AOAV, December 2014.86 Jonathan S. Landay, “Officers Blamed in Afghan Ambush thatKilled 5 U.S. Troops,” McClatchy DC, 17 February 2010, (accessed 22December 2014).87 “Document – Amnesty background to the Kunduz airstrike of 4September 2009,” Amnesty International, 30 October 2009, (accessed22 December 2014).88 Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Decision on Airstrike in AfghanistanWas Based Largely on Sole Informant’s Assessment,” TheWashington Post, 6 September 2009, (accessed 22 December 2014).89 “Document – Amnesty background to the Kunduz airstrike of 4September 2009,” Amnesty International, 30 October 2009, (accessed22 December 2014).90 Judgement of the District Court of Bonn, 12 November2013, available at Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Decision on Airstrike in AfghanistanWas Based Largely on Sole Informant’s Assessment,” TheWashington Post, 6 September 2009, (accessed 22 December 2014).92 “Document – Amnesty background to the Kunduz airstrike of 4September 2009,” Amnesty International, 30 October 2009, (accessed22 December 2014).

Air power in Afghanistan | 2993 “EU nations slam NATO strike in Afghanistan,” EUbusiness, 5September 2009, 22 December 2014).94 Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Decision on Airstrike in AfghanistanWas Based Largely on Sole Informant’s Assessment,” TheWashington Post, 6 September 2009, (accessed 22 December 2014). The claimthat no warning was issued is taken from from, “Document –Amnesty background to the Kunduz airstrike of 4 September2009,” Amnesty International, 30 October 2009, (accessed 22December 2014).95 Matthias Gebauer, “Aftermath of an Afghanistan Tragedy:Germany to Pay $500,000 for Civilian Bombing Victims,” SpiegelOnline, 6 August 2010, (accessed 23December 2014); Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Decision on Airstrike inAfghanistan Was Based Largely on Sole Informant’s Assessment,”The Washington Post, 6 September 2009, (accessed 22 December 2014).96 “Document – Amnesty background to the Kunduz airstrike of 4September 2009,” Amnesty International, 30 October 2009, (accessed22 December 2014).97 Center for Civilians in Conflict, “Civilian Harm Tracking: Analysisof ISAF Efforts in Afghanistan,” 2014, 23 December 2014).98 Center for Civilians in Conflict, “Civilian Harm Tracking: Analysisof ISAF Efforts in Afghanistan,” 2014, 23 December 2014).99 Freedom Information request submitted to the UK Ministry ofDefence on 27 October 2014, Ref: FOI2014/06413100 Expert meeting on reducing the humanitarian impact of the useof explosive weapons in populated areas, London, UK, 23-24September 2013.101 Julia Dempsey, “Berlin to Pay Afghan Families for FatalAttack,” The New York Times, 10 August 2010, 23 December 2014).102 “Afghans seek damages for Kunduz air strike,” The Local, 20March 2013, 23 December 2014).103 “Afghans seek damages for Kunduz air strike,” The Local, 20March 2013, 23 December 2014).104 Judgement of the District Court of Bonn, 12 November2013, available at To learn more aboutthe applicable rights of victims of armed violence to reparationssee Nerina Cevra and Jane Hunter, “Writing the Rights,” Actionon Armed Violence (AOAV), Amnesty International, “Left in the dark: Failures of accountabilityfor civilian casualties caused by international military operationsin Afghanistan,” 2014, (accessed 23 December 2014).106 Amnesty International, “Left in the dark: Failures of accountabilityfor civilian casualties caused by international military operationsin Afghanistan,” 2014, (accessed 23 December 2014).107 C.J. Chivers, “General Faces Unease Among His Own Troops,Too,” The New York Times, 22 June 2010, (accessed 22December 2014).108 Christopher D. Amore, “Rules of Engagement: Balancingthe (Inherent) Right and Obligation of Self-Defense with thePrevention of Civilian Casualties,” National Security Law Journal,Vol. 1:1,, pp. 39-76.109 For more information on the use of heavy explosive weaponsin the Iraq war see: Jenna Corderoy and Robert Perkins, “ATale of Two Cities: The use of explosive weapons in Basra andFallujah, Iraq, 2003-4,” 2014,; Unnamedmilitary analyst, cited by Toby Harnden and Damien McElroy,“Gen David Petraeus to review ‘courageous restraint,’” TheTelegraph, 24 June 2010, 24 November 2014).110 NATO ISAF Headquarters- Afghanistan, “General PetraeusIssues Updated Tactical Directive: Emphasizes ‘Disciplined Useof Force,’” 4 August 2010, 21 December 2014).111 Christopher D. Amore, “Rules of Engagement: Balancingthe (Inherent) Right and Obligation of Self-Defense with thePrevention of Civilian Casualties,” National Security Law Journal,Vol. 1:1,, p. 69.112 Christopher D. Amore, “Rules of Engagement: Balancingthe (Inherent) Right and Obligation of Self-Defense with thePrevention of Civilian Casualties,” National Security Law Journal,Vol. 1:1,, p. 69.113 “Nato in deadly Afghan air strike in Logar province,” BBC, 6 June2012, (accessed 22December 2014).114 Abdul Maqsud Azizi, “17 civilians dead in NATO airstrike,”Pajhwok Afghan News, 6 June 2012, (accessed 22December 2014); “Nato in deadly Afghan air strike in Logarprovince,” BBC, 6 June 2012, 22 December 2014); Emma Graham-Harrison, “Afghanistan suffers day of bloodshed at hands of Natoand Taliban,” The Guardian, 6 June 2012, (accessed22 December 2014).115 Deb Reichmann, “US gen apologizes for Afghan deaths in airstrike,” The Associated Press, 8 June 2012, (accessed 22December 2014).116 Lissa J. Rubin and Taimoor Shah, “Afghanistan Faces DeadliestDay for Civilians This Year in Multiple Attacks,” The New YorkTimes, 6 June 2012, 22 December 2014).117 “Dozens dead in Afghan bombing, air strike-officials,” Reuters, 6June 2012, 22 December2012).118 “NATO blamed for Afghan civilians deaths,” AlJazeera, 7 June 2012, (accessed 26 July 2012).119 Deb Reichmann, “US gen apologizes for Afghan deaths in airstrike,” The Associated Press posted by The Huffington Post, 8June 2012, 26 July 2012).120 “Karzai condemns NATO air strike on civilians,” AFP postedin The Express Tribune, 7 June 2012, 22 December 2014).

30 | Action on Armed Violence121 Abdul Maqsud Azizi, “17 civilians dead in NATO airstrike,” PajhwokAfghan News, 6 June 2012, (accessed 22 December 2014).122 Laura King, “Stung by criticism, NATO to limit Afghan airbombing,” Los Angeles Times, 11 June 2012, 30 November 2014).123 NATO ISAF, “ISAF statement on Air Dropped Munitions,” 20`1-06-CA-009, 22 December 2014).124 NATO Legal Deskbook, second edition 2010, available fordownload at,pp. 256-257.125 Laura King, “Stung by criticism, NATO to limit Afghan airbombing,” Los Angeles Times, 11 June 2012, 30 November 2014).126 Laura King, “Stung by criticism, NATO to limit Afghan airbombing,” Los Angeles Times, 11 June 2012, 30 November 2014).127 NATO ISAF Headquarters, “COMISAF’s Tactical Directive,” 30November 2011, 22 December 2014).128 Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti claimed that five incidents hadcaused civilian casualties, but on the same day Lt. Col. JimmieCummings stated that there had been seven such incidents.AOAV could not determine the cause of this discrepancy.“NATO orders restrictions on Afghan air strikes: US,” AFPposted by Al Arabiya, 11 June 2012, (accessed 26 July 2014); “NATOto limit airstrikes in Afghanistan,” CNN, 12 June 2012, 17 December 2014).129 For more information see Henry Dodd and Robert Perkins, “AnExplosive Situation: Monitoring explosive violence in 2012,”Action on Armed Violence, April 2013, (accessed 22 December 2014).130 “Afghanistan: Annual Report 2013: Protection of Civilians in ArmedConflict,” UNAMA, February 2014, (accessed 22 December 2014).131 “Afghanistan: Annual Report 2013: Protection of Civiliansin Armed Conflict,” UNAMA, February 2014, (accessed 22 December2014).132 Emma Graham-Harrison, “Nato air strike kills civilians in easternAfghanistan, officials say,” The Guardian, 13 February 2013, 22 December 2014).133 “10 Afghans killed in NATO air strike: officials,” Reuters postedby NDTV, 13 February 2013, (accessed 22December 2014).134 “NATO airstrike kills 4 Taliban members and 9 civilians inAfghanistan, officials say,” The Associated Press, posted by FoxNews, 13 February 2013, 22 December 2014).135 Kim Gamel, “Afghan leader, US general discuss civilian deaths,”The Associated Press, 14 February 2013, 22 December 2014).136 United Nations, Convention on the Rights of the Child,”Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding observationson the second report of the United States of America, adoptedby the Committee at its sixty-second session (14 January- 5February 2013),” CRC/C/OPAC/USA, 28 January 2013.137 NATO ISAF, “Response to Committee on the Rights of the Child,”USFOR-A PUBLIC AFFAIRS, 08 February 2013, 22 February 2014).138 Kim Gamel, “Afghan leader, US general discuss civilian deaths,”The Associated Press, 14 February 2013, 22 December 2014).139 “Nato Afghanistan Kunar air strike ‘kills 10’,” BBC, 13 February2013, (accessed 22December 2014).140 “Karzai signs ban on NATO airstrikes,” Al Jazeera,19 February 2013, (accessed 22 December2014).141 “NATO ‘will comply with Afghan air strike ban,” The ExpressTribune, 17 February 2013, (accessed 19December 2014).142 Informal Expert Meeting on Strengthening the Protection ofCivilians from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas,Oslo, Norway, 17-18 June 2014.143 In 2008, the deadliest year for air strikes in Afghanistan, air strikeswere responsible for 26% of all civilian deaths in the country,while IEDs collectively caused 34% of civilian deaths that year.“Afghanistan: Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in ArmedConflict, 2008,” United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan(UNAMA), January 2009, (accessed 20 December 2014).144 552 of 2,118 total civilian deaths in 2008, compared to 118 of2,959 total civilian deaths in 2013. “Afghanistan: Annual Report2013: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,” UNAMA,February 2014, (accessed 22 December 2014).145 Although responsibility for civilian casualties is disputed, the UNsays that their investigation indicated that the civilian deathsand injuries resulted from “massive blast wave/shock waveswhich collapsed the roof sheltering the women and children.”United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, “AfghanistanAnnual Report 2013: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,”February 2014, (accessed 23 December 2014).146 Alissa J. Rubin, “Commander Denies U.S. to Blame inAfghan Deaths,” The New York Times, 13 May 2013, (accessed 3 April 2014).147 “UNAMA notes that the amount of air delivered munitions usedduring and after the military operation appeared to be excessiveand disproportionate to the concrete and direct military advantageanticipated.” United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan,“Afghanistan Annual Report 2013: Protection of Civilians in ArmedConflict,” February 2014, (accessed 23 December 2014).148 International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), “Explosiveweapons in populated areas – key questions and answers,”August 2014, available for download at (accessed 9 December 2014).149 On 1 October 2014 a Note Verbale was issued to all MemberStates of the United Nations requesting “Member States to makeavailable relevant information pertaining to good practice andpolicy that either expressly governs, or otherwise places limitson, the use by armed forces of explosive weapons with wide-areaeffects in populated areas.” Such information is to be shared withthe UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. OCHA/NV/188/2014.

ACtion on ArMed violenCeAction on Armed Violence (AOAV) is a London, based charity that has a central mission: toreduce harm and to rebuild lives affected by armed violence.We do this by carrying out field work, research and advocacy to reduce the incidence andimpact of global armed violence.The number of fatalities from armed violence is estimated to be over half a million peoplekilled every year. Around two thirds of these violent deaths are estimated to occur outsideconflict situations. Poorer countries are particularly badly affected.We seek to remove the threat of weapons, monitor the impact of explosive weaponsaround the world and investigate what causes armed violence – from guns to suicidebombings. We aim to clear land of explosive weapons and work with governments toregulate guns.We work with victims of armed violence, offering psychosocial assistance, providingopportunities to help them earn a living and to try to reduce conflict at local levels.We work to build communities affected by armed violence, working with governments andmeasuring and monitoring the incidences and impacts of armed violence around the world.To contact AOAV please go to our website:

CONTACTAction on Armed Violence5th Floor, Epworth House25 City RoadLondon EC1Y 1AAT +44 (0)20 7256 9500F +44 (0)20 7256 9311E

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