• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

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    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

  • Media Content

Germany helping Afghans

Posted By: Erica

I’m in Kunduz now, in the north of Afghanistan. Kunduz saw heavy fighting and bombardment in 2001, when coalition forces were attacking Taliban fighters fleeing to the north, but since then it’s been a relatively quiet province. A few suicide bombings last year and threats from local insurgent groups suggest that might be changing, but for the time being the German Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which is in charge of security and stabilization for this province, has a fairly quiet job.

Despite the calm in Kunduz there are civilians who are being harmed by the ongoing conflict and the military presence. I went to the local German PRT to talk to them about how they handle these issues. One officer told me that when there is an insurgent bombing that harms civilian casualties, or a road accident resulting in civilian injuries, they do what they can. But they are not given any funds to spend on such condolences or gestures of compassion to civilian families. Any funds they do raise come from the individual soldiers on the PRT or from their families back home in Germany.

One soldier told me: “When he had the automobile accident [a few days ago], at the morning meeting every soldier gave maybe 5, 10 euros, whatever he could for the family.” In that case, they were able to scrape together about 200 euros for that family.

Sometimes these soldiers find ways to help families that go beyond a monetary contribution. When there was a suicide bombing last May, resulting in 21 civilian casualties (5 deaths, 16 injuries), the Civil-Military (CIMIC) coordinator at the PRT tried to find jobs for those injured, or for their surviving family members, at the PRT or with other organizations in town. One of the victims, a 7-year-old girl, suffered severe burns requiring skin grafts and plastic surgery to restore. The PRT officials found a German charity that would take responsibility for flying her for treatment to Germany and taking care of her while there. After a lengthy process of approval, they were finally successful, and the little girl boarded a plane for Germany three days ago for her treatment.

It is an inspiring gesture of humanity that these troops will dig into their own pockets and resources to help Afghans. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. All NATO countries operating in Afghanistan should be giving funds to help war victims.

Q and A: America and the Cluster Ban Treaty

Over half the world’s governments agreed last week to a ban on cluster munitions. But not the United States. Our government not only skipped the deliberations, but continues to defend its policy of keeping and using these deadly weapons.

Why won’t America join the movement to ban cluster munitions? Our executive director Sarah Holewinski sat down with a premier expert to find out.Sarah Holewinski Marc Garlasco is senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch and a board member of CIVIC. He was instrumental in getting the ban passed and was there at its signing.

Sarah: The US says it can’t support the Convention on Cluster Munitions because its military then couldn’t help countries devastated by tsunamis and earthquakes. Is this true?

Marc Garlasco of Human Rights WatchMarc: This is circular reasoning at its best. First of all, what humanitarian operation uses cluster munitions? The real issue is US ships have cluster munitions on them, and the US was worried their allies who did sign the Convention could no longer work with it because of that. But this is a non-issue. No humanitarian or peacekeeping operation has ever been barred because of weapons.

Take the landmine ban treaty, for example. The US didn’t sign that and yet has worked together with allies like the UK (who did sign it) for years. What’s more, this new Convention allows for those kinds of partnerships, whether cluster munitions are on ships or planes, so this is a non-issue.

Sarah: But the US says it needs cluster munitions to defend the country. Do we really need them?

Marc: We haven’t used them since 2003, so let’s just say they’re obviously not indispensable when fighting a war. There are plenty of other weapons that can defend the country and not indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, who represent the vast majority of victims.

Sarah: The US says it won’t “unilaterally get rid of” clusters.

Marc: The Cluster Munitions Conventions is nowhere near a unilateral effort. There are 111 countries who have agreed to destroy their stockpiles and not use these horrible weapons again, including key NATO allies like the UK, Germany, France, and Canada. If they can do it, so can the United States.

Sarah: So, as a nation, we’re really behind the 8-ball here, aren’t we?

Marc: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

To learn more about the impact of cluster munitions on civilian populations, and to take action on this issue, click here.