Casualties in time and space. The seasonal rhythms and shifting battlefields of the war emerge in this view of the 8131 Afghan civilians killed or injured over the past 2 years, recorded in a military database called CIVCAS. (No data were available for the first 5 months of 2010 in the Southwest region.)
CREDIT: GEORGE MICHAEL BROWER
I am at a loss for words with today’s news of a missile strike in Libya.
PARIS — American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in the first round of the largest international military intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon said.
I am confident that this decision was not made lightly but with careful consideration of the complex array of factors involved in any military decision. I wonder: Does this constitute war? Is there such a thing as a just war?
Take at look at this compelling display of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan 2009-10, a reminder of what only part of what the human cost has been in the Afghan war. Is it worth it?
Some more detail of the data shown in the Science graphic:
Color scheme: large black dot (killed), small black dot (wounded)
Caused by insurgents: yellow (unknown), orange (complex), red (improvised explosive device), violet (indirect fire), purple (direct fire)
The CIVCAS database tracks all of these deaths and injuries. Between January 2009 and December 2010, it logged a total of 2537 civilians killed and 5594 wounded. About 80% of the deaths and injuries are attributed to insurgents. (The CIVCAS data go back to January 2008, but insurgent-caused casualties were not tracked until 2009.)
Throughout the war, critics have accused ISAF of undercounting civilian casualties, particularly those caused by their own soldiers. Just last month, a battle in Kunar province on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan generated conflicting accounts. According to villagers, ISAF killed 65 civilians, including 50 women and children. According to ISAF, only insurgents were killed.
The data provided by UNAMA do show far more casualties than those from ISAF. For 2009 and 2010, its data include 5191 civilian deaths, over 70% of them caused by “antigovernment elements,” 20% by “pro-government forces,” and the rest undetermined. Compared with CIVCAS, they attribute nearly three times the number of civilian deaths caused by military forces, only a small portion of which are Afghan national rather than ISAF forces. One of the most significant discrepancies comes from the 529 civilians that UNAMA claims were killed by “air attacks” in 2009 and 2010. CIVCAS shows only 136 civilians killed by jets and helicopters over that period.