NATO Documentary - Afghanistan: Voices above the noise 3/4 (with subtitles: English)

Uploaded by NATOCOMMUNITY on 06.01.2011

Images from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, charting, it says, the aftermath
of NATO bombardments in which civilians perished. NATO has seen many times how much goodwill
it squanders when reports of civilian casualties reach Afghans. In 2009, according to the United
Nations, nearly 2500 civilians were killed. Of them, nearly 600 -- less than a quarter
of the total -- were killed by pro-government forces, Afghan and foreign. The UN said more
than 1600 other people died from the actions of anti-government forces -- the Taliban mostly,
but other insurgent groups as well. Yet, despite the data, NATO takes the brunt of the blame
in the Afghan mind. And as military strategists throughout the ages confirm, the line between
success and failure is public support.
"We are all worried about this. They should stop them killing civilians. If not, more
Afghan people will start fighting against NATO, and it might progress the war rather
than stop it."
"When the American and foreign forces have attacked civilians, destroyed them, or gone
and searched their houses without the Afghan National Police being there, that's why some
people join the Taliban."
"We are asking the government, NATO and opposition forces, to please stop killing civilians."
"It has a very negative impact on the minds of the people. The best way is to communicate
with elders, mullahs and tribal leaders, to announce their activities and share information
with the civilian population."
These people have fled the fighting in the southern hotspots to a makeshift camp in Kabul.
This family is typical of the plight of many here, caught in the crossfire between insurgents
and the British forces they were fighting in Sangin district in Helmand.
"When the bombing started our wall collapsed. I ran to my other children. When I came back
I found my son underneath the wall with his leg broken."
"We can't stop the Taliban coming to our village. When 30 armed men arrive, we can't just tell
them not to fight here. If we do they say we're supporting the Americans and kill us.
The Americans, they say that they can shoot even a needle on the poppy plant at night.
If that's true, why don't they kill their enemy instead of bombarding our villages and
killing women and children?"
This is the JOC, the Joint Operations Cell, at ISAF headquarters in Kabul. Here, every
bombing mission is reported and investigated. The issue of civilian casualties has put ISAF
at odds with just about everyone. Afghans, the UN, NGOs. NATO says it carries out investigations
and acknowledges mistakes. Its case it says: that it's an honest, not a careless, contributor
to security. It came under particular criticism after one incident in which around a hundred
people were reported to have been killed in an airstrike in the Shindand district in the
west. Its account of the incident was distrusted and challenged.
"ISAF said one thing. The UN said other things. The accusations flew back and forth. And in
the end no one in the western region was very happy with ISAF's reaction, because the first
reaction was very unequivocal. This is what we did. This is how many died and that is
it. There didn't seem to be a dialogue.
The interaction has now changed, says Lauren Sweeney, however it's often a struggle, she
says, for the military to be believed.
"Let's face it. The minute a man walks into a meeting in full uniform, sometimes in the
case of the Americans with a weapon strapped to their leg, there is an immediate wall between
civilians and military. And many of my colleagues in the NGO community have prejudices, whether
warranted or not, against anybody in uniform. They cannot believe that they could possibly
be telling them the whole truth even though the man in uniform, or woman in uniform, is
telling them the truth as far as they personally know it."
So what does NATO actually do to limit civilian casualties in fast moving operations? CLIP
Air Commodore Ian TEAKLE, British Royal Air Force, Kabul
"We will try and use the presence of air to allow the ground forces to extricate themselves
from the situation. Going up through show of presence, show of force, and then the use
of armament. We have two procedures. One is to achieve a positive identification of the
area under which the fire is generating. And the second is a pattern of life. So we try
and assure ourselves that the area is clear of civilians. But we have to understand that
the insurgents use civilians to provide themselves some form of protection."
"Every pilot has all the different types of scenarios in his head. We keep them completely
informed of that all the time, so that both us in the air and our friendly forces troops
on the ground are aware of where the civilians are even in the most dynamic of situations.
Even when it is close contact with an enemy force we still do that whole dialogue with
the troops on the ground so that everyone knows where the friendlies and the civilians
While the foreign forces in Afghanistan refine and adapt their strategy and technologies
to the realities they face on the ground, Afghans too search for solutions. Their reading
of their own realities are pointing more and more to reconciliation with insurgents --
drawing them into a durable political process. Today’s enemy may in fact be a neighbour
and a future partner in peace. A model tried and tested in many other conflicts.
"Security is our main condition. When we have security Afghanistan will be released from
the grip of the terrorist. Some of them want Afghanistan to be the centre of terrorism.
But there are others who due to poverty have joined the Taliban. They should be separated
and offered new opportunities."
The prospect of opening the door to the Taliban to take part in political life appeals to
many ordinary Afghans looking now for their own solutions to today’s problems.
"Sure, there are different types of Taliban. It's like it is the woods, where there are
different animals. Not all of them are bad and I support reconciliation.''
The Taliban, they're from Afghanistan. They don't have bad intentions. Why did they join?
The new ones? Because of insecurity, because of bombardment, because of civilian casualties.
They are good people." I think reconciliation is a good idea. We
can't say that the Taliban are all the same. They may have joined because of the insecurity
or for other reasons." "The only way to ensure security is negotiation
with the Taliban because they are also part of this country. It's the only way we'll get
peace." "Our religion is not an extremist religion.
But some of the principles of the Taliban are. I don't support these. Everything is
clear in our Koran."
Ten years after the Taliban were driven from power, Afghans are returning to the solutions
that suit their ways and fit their diverse society. If successful the result will be
a finely calibrated balance between religion, politics and ethnic and tribal affiliation.
The drive and energy of civil society -- weakened but not dead after decades of conflict
-- will help shape that balance. Ahead of a big conference on Afghanistan in London
earlier this year, three such representatives met in Kabul to pool ideas on the next steps
of the peace-building effort in Afghanistan.
Orzala Ashraf, who once ran a shelter for abused women, and is now a political scientist
and consultant. Akmal Dawi, a journalist with the UN’s development and humanitarian affairs
news agency, IRIN, exercised as he is by talk of western troop withdrawal, and Nader Naderi,
a human rights expert at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Sources of conflict and solutions
"Several types of conflicts are reflected in our country. If there is something going
wrong between Pakistan and India, we are the victims here. Our people are being killed.
For example two blasts at the Indian embassy. How many Indians have been killed there and
how many Afghans have been killed there? Some people are coming here who are not necessarily
citizens of Afghanistan or any other even countries in the Islamic world. They are citizens
of the America, or they are citizens of Germany and of the UK who are the ones who are ready
to blow themselves up. So there has to be other approaches towards extremism, right
from the roots."
"We need international community, particularly NATO and its military allies to defeat the
Taliban. We need more ground for the Afghan government to operate to deliver services,
and if we talk about the premature withdrawal, that will remind Afghans that the international
community is an unreliable partner, that sooner or later the international community will
be exhausted. They will pull out. Already over the past eight years we have spent a
lot with blood and money in this country and if you decide to withdraw prematurely everything
will be wasted.''
"There won't be any incentive for reconciliation and negotiation in this message of withdrawal,
and also those elements within the government of Pakistan will not cut off their ties with
the Taliban in the hope they would have a chance to take over a weak government that
was supported over the last 8 years by the international community, but is not able to
sustain itself and it is not able to strengthen its authority throughout the country.''
"I do see that there are success stories in the last 8 years. There are major achievements.
Yesterday, when I was travelling to Faizabad, I was there in 2003, I was there in 2005,
I was there in 2006 and I was there yesterday. The changes that I have seen in that remote
part of the country in terms of reconstruction and the way the people look towards the country
and the future was enormous and significant. Those are issues that can create hope, that
need to be brought back to the international community also that their blood and their
money was not wasted here. Afghanistan is taking firm but slow steps towards a better
future, to create a level of hope for continuitation among Afghans, and also to send a message
of continuation to those who are standing against this progress. Both in Pakistan, both
in terrorist groups and Al Qaeda."