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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 109

U.S. kills unarmed civilians in AF-PAK region in droves

By Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune US Bureau Report
Washington, D.C. 21 SEP. (

When an Afghan civilian dies in war, the world rarely notices: the Afghan government, hospitals and morgues in the country, even the US-led international military force that has been a presence there since late 2001, all fail to keep comprehensive lists of civilian fatalities.

The interactive database is an attempt to compile as complete a list as possible of civilian deaths that have occurred in Afghanistan as a result of war-related actions by the United States, its allies and Afghan government forces, from the invasion in October of 2001 through the end of 2012.

It relies on an extensive survey of reliable media accounts for its raw data, and when no media account is available, on the casualty reports of NGOs, human rights organizations and ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) is the assertion of the widely-read progressive/left The Nation and many media outlets in the United States.

The mainstream media, electronic and print, are reluctant to use the above type of sentiments and preparedness to undertake investigative journalism but often find difficult to ignore some of the investigative reports carried by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism or the progressive-left The Nation.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) launched an investigation Thursday, September 19 into a recent drone strike in Kunar province that senior Afghan officials allege killed 11 civilians and three suspected insurgents (Reuters). ISAF originally claimed that the strike, which occurred on September 7, had killed 10 militants and no civilians, but initiated an investigation due to the reports of civilian casualties. Coalition spokeswoman Col. Jane Crichton stated: "The air strike targeted insurgents riding in a truck. There were no signs of civilians in the vicinity." Shuja ul-Mulkh Jalala, the provincial governor, disputed this claim and said that four women, four children, two drivers, and a merchant were among the victims.

The NATO investigation was announced the same day The Nation released data it has collected on civilian casualties occurring in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2012. The data, pulled from coalition, media, and non-governmental organization reports, shows that between 2,848 and 6,481 civilians were killed by Afghan, NATO, and U.S. forces during that time.

Now, let's turn to the scenario on Pakistan.

Hundreds of Pakistanis have been killed in U.S. drone strikes, many of them civilian adults and children, according to a secret document produced by Pakistan’s government.

The document reveals that 746 people were killed in 75 drone attacks strikes from 2006 through late 2009, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

At least 147 of the dead were civilians, including 94 children.

The classified Pakistani government document was disclosed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which obtained it.

The figures run contrary to what the U.S. government has said about the strikes. Officials in the Obama administration have insisted that no more than 50 to 60 ‘non-combatants’ have been killed in the Central Intelligence Agency missions during nine years of bombings. CIA Director John Brennan, considered to be the architect of the drone program, has said that “collateral” deaths from such strikes are “exceedingly rare.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) claimed that they cause less than 10 civilian casualties a year worldwide.

Feinstein is the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which has oversight responsibility for the 16 civilian and military agencies and departments that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community.

A secret document obtained by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.

The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.

The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.

The confidential 12-page summary paper, titled Details of Attacks by NATO Forces/Predators in FATA was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Based on confidential reports from a network of government agents in the field, it outlines 75 separate CIA drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009 and provides details of casualties in many of the attacks. Five attacks alleged to be carried out by NATO or other unspecified forces are also listed.

The numbers recorded are much higher than those provided by the US administration, which continues to insist that no more than 50 to 60 ‘non-combatants’ have been killed by the CIA across the entire nine years of Pakistan bombings. New CIA director John Brennan has described claims to the contrary as ‘intentional misrepresentations‘.

The document shows that during the 2006-09 period covered, when Pakistan’s government and military were privately supporting the CIA’s campaign, officials had extensive internal knowledge of high civilian casualties.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Bureau the present Pakistani government opposes drone strikes: ‘Pakistan’s position on drone strikes has been stipulated on several occasions. The drone strikes violate our sovereignty and international law. These also entail human rights and humanitarian implications.’

A former Political Agent for North Waziristan who was shown the leaked report by the Bureau says he does not believe the casualty figures to be exaggerated.

‘There was no benefit in officials “cooking the books” here, since this document was clearly never intended to be seen outside the civilian administration,’ said Rauf Khan Khattak, who also recently served in Pakistan’s caretaker government.

The leaked document is based on field reports by government officials rather than on media coverage. The Bureau understands that the document is continually updated as attacks occur – although the copy obtained ends with a strike on October 24 2009.

Prepared for the FATA Secretariat – the political administration of the tribal areas – the document was never intended for public release. Since no individual victims are named, the Bureau has assessed that it is safe to publish the paper in its entirety.

Both the US and Pakistani authorities have historically been wary of releasing casualty data for the ‘secret’ CIA campaign.

However in March, UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC – who is carrying out an investigation into drone strikes – said that Pakistani officials had now produced estimates of civilians killed in CIA drone attacks.

Emmerson stated that Islamabad ‘has been able to confirm that at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of drone strikes, and that a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants. Officials indicated that due to under-reporting and obstacles to effective investigation on the ground these figures were likely to be under-estimates of the number of civilian deaths.’

In contrast, leaked US intelligence documents recently obtained by news agency McClatchy show the CIA rarely admits to civilian deaths in Pakistan.

Yet the internal document obtained by the Bureau shows that for years Pakistani officials were noting privately what news media and researchers were already reporting publicly – that significant numbers of civilians were indeed being killed in CIA attacks.

And, Afghanistan is no -

- Asian Tribune -

Pakistan officially denied that 81 civilians including children died in this 2006 CIA drone strike – but a leaked document says otherwise. (Photo: Getty Images).
File image of an armed MQ-9 Reaper drone
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