• 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.

  • Countries

  • Contributors

    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

AFGHANISTAN: Can a medal really save a life?

Posted by:  Marla B

Last week NATO commanders proposed a new idea: a medal for “courageous restraint” if troops avoid using force that could harm an Afghan civilian. Steps like this make it clear their heads and hearts are in the right place, given how important such avoidance is in Afghanistan right now–-both for humanitarian and strategic reasons.

I’m pleased to see consideration of civilians playing such a prominent role in military thinking; it’s certainly long over due there.

But can a medal for a soldier really save an Afghan life?

The first question that comes to mind is “shouldn’t soldiers already be showing ‘courageous restraint?’”  The answer is yes.  The requirements for receiving the medal track with what soldiers should already be doing on the battlefield to abide by international laws and stated NATO values.

So the next logical question is: Do medals really motivate our soldiers? Capt. Edward Graham’s company is part of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment and he had a straightforward answer for the Associated Press: “Not a single one of these guys does it for the medals.”  Anyone who knows a soldier knows that to be true.

Then, medals aside, what can international forces do better to avoid and protect civilians in the battlespace?  There are two answers. Better training and improved escalation of force procedures–which, incidentally, top military brass are already talking about.

Analysis and process aren’t quite as flashy as a medal but they’ve often proved to be a lot more effective in saving lives. Better training, for example, will change the chain reaction of split second decisions every soldier has to make each time they are confronted with a perceived threat.

I believe and know from my time training U.S. troops that many of soldiers being deployed to Afghanistan already show ‘courageous restraint’. The danger and unknown variables they face each and every day make their job amongst the most difficult in the world.

The ones that don’t show such restraint don’t need an award to show them the way.  They need better tools and training to ensure their courage in serving actually translates into lives saved.

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GUEST BLOGGER: Civilians Flee to Kandahar City After ISAF Aerial Bombing

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

It was 2am when the aerial bombardment started. Ahmed described to me, in an interview in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kandahar, how he and has family huddled together behind a wall. “We said that if we were going to die, we would die together.” The bombing by ISAF troops continued for two hours. Nine of Ahmed’s neighbors died and eleven civilians were injured, including three of Ahmed’s family members: his mother and his two brothers.

Ahmed

Ahmed

When the bombing finally ended, Ahmed grabbed his family members, found a bus and sent them to Kandahar city. He and his neighbors then tried to get the badly injured and dying to a hospital. In one of the houses, five family members were dead. The head of this household pulled his son from the rubble. His son was crying, saying “I’m cold, I’m so cold.” Ahmed found a blanket and put it over the boy, but he died not long afterwards.

The coalition troops had been told that the Taliban were hiding in Ahmed’s village. This is why the bombing had targeted near these civilian homes. But Ahmed told me that when the land troops came after the air strike, they found no Taliban and only civilians. The foreign troops therefore promised to compensate Ahmed and his neighbors. But they said that they would pay only for the dead and not for the livestock and land that had been lost. Continue reading

GUEST BLOGGER: Killed for Failing to Stop his Car

Posted By: Rebecca W., working with CIVIC’s Erica in Afghanistan

Around 8am on February 27, 2007, Mohammad was driving to the Pakistan Embassy in Kandahar city to collect his visa. He traveled regularly to Pakistan to buy parts for his successful car business. On the road ahead, an ISAF armored vehicle had broken down. Mohammad failed to pull over, despite requests from ISAF soldiers that he should stop his car. The ISAF soldiers responded with lethal gunfire leaving Mohammad’s mother, wife and four small children without a son, husband, father, and provider.

Today, I interviewed Mohammad’s brother-in-law, Bilal, who has been supporting Mohammad’s family since February 2007. He told me how his sister had previously had a good life; her husband was a successful businessman and she had everything she needed. Now, Bilal told me, “if you take her two apples, she is excited. When she sees other families, with husbands and children happy together, she starts crying.
Continue reading

GUEST BLOGGER: The Three Carpenters from Kandahar – Pt 1

Posted By: Rebecca W., working with CIVIC’s Erica in Afghanistan

Mohammad, Amanullah and Abdul have been friends for over ten years. They are carpenters who work together in Kandahar City. On June 4, 2006, they were finishing a large window frame when a suicide bomber blew himself up just outside their shop. The bomber was targeting a convoy of Canadian troops; as with most civilians caught in the conflict, the three carpenters were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The three friends were all injured. Pieces of shrapnel were embedded in their legs, arms and faces. Mohammad and Abdul were so badly burned that they were flown to Pakistan where they stayed for a month. “The doctors were looking at me as if I was a dead man,” Abdul told me. Over two years after the incident, the skin on his face and arms is still mottled and scarred from the burns.