JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — A military prosecutor on
Monday laid out a chillingly flat recitation of the government’s case against
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the Army officer who is accused of murdering 16
civilians this year in Afghanistan, as a pretrial hearing began in one of the
nation’s worst war crimes cases in decades.
“He was lucid, coherent and responsive,” Lt. Col. Joseph Morse, the Army
prosecutor, told the court in describing Sergeant Bales’s demeanor on arriving
back at an Army post in Kandahar Province with blood on his clothes that, the
prosecutor said, had seeped all the way through to the sergeant’s underwear.
Local families in a poor area with no electricity, Colonel Morse said, awoke
early on March 11 to find a figure cloaked in darkness inside their homes,
firing a weapon with apparent intent to kill. Children were shot through the
thighs or in the head, he said. In one place, 11 bodies — mostly women and
children, the prosecutor said — were “put in a pile and put on fire.”
Sergeant Bales, 39, an 11-year-military veteran, could face the death penalty if
found guilty of the most serious charges, and the decision is specifically made
to advance the case as a capital crime.
The hearing that began Monday, here at the base where Sergeant Bales was
stationed, about an hour south of Seattle, was the first step in the military
justice process. An Article 32 Investigation, as it is called, is roughly the
equivalent of a grand jury inquiry in civilian law, aimed at determining whether
sufficient evidence exists to continue to a full court-martial.
At least 35 witnesses are expected to testify, some through live video uplink
from Afghanistan, over the investigation, which could last two weeks or more.
The presiding officer, Col. Lee Deneke, will then make his recommendation to
superiors as to the next steps, including the question of whether the death
penalty should be considered, as the prosecution has requested.
Sergeant Bales’s defense lawyers on Monday reserved their opening comment for
If the Kandahar killings sent a shudder through U.S.-Afghan relations and
through the military itself this spring as the horror of the case emerged, it
seemed clear from the day’s opening testimony — and the sharp cross-examination
by Sergeant Bales’s defense team — that the Article 32 hearing itself could
continue the aftershocks.
One of the first witnesses, for example, Cpl. David Godwin, testifying under
immunity from prosecution, told the court he had violated Army rules on the
night of the killings by drinking alcohol with Sergeant Bales and another
Under direct examination by prosecutors, Corporal Godwin said the three had a
couple of drinks — Jack Daniel’s, concealed in a water bottle — in one of the
soldier’s rooms while watching a movie, “Man on Fire,” about a former
intelligence operative who seeks violent revenge after a girl’s kidnapping.
Using a word that Colonel Morse had used in outlining the case, Corporal Godwin
repeatedly said that Sergeant Bales was “coherent,” and that neither Sergeant
Bales nor the other soldier, as far as Corporal Godwin could tell, was
One of Sergeant Bales’s defense lawyers, Emma Scanlan, suggested in her
cross-examination that Corporal Godwin underestimated the alcohol use and
misread Sergeant Bales’s state of mind when the sergeant returned to camp in
bloody clothes just before 5 a.m. Under her questioning, Corporal Godwin
admitted that he had exchanged perhaps five or six sentences with Sergeant Bales
outside the camp gate at the sergeant’s return, as the unit hurried to respond
to reports of civilian casualties and a missing soldier.
That brief exchange, she said, is the “basis of saying he was coherent.”
Sergeant Bales was also wearing a cape when he returned to the unit, and Ms.
Scanlan’s questions suggested that this also indicated something odd.
“Is that normal behavior?” she asked the witness.
“No,” Corporal Godwin said.
“Do you wear a cape?” she asked.
“No,” he said.
Another of Sergeant Bales’s lawyers, John Henry Browne, has said Sergeant Bales
suffered post-traumatic stress. Mr. Browne, who was en route to Afghanistan to
be there for witness testimony this week, said in an interview over the weekend
that issues of Sergeant Bales’s hospitalizations, for a foot wound and a head
wound, and his previous deployments — three in Iraq, the fourth in Afghanistan —
would also be explored in the Article 32 inquiry.
In the charge sheet that is the basis for the hearing, Sergeant Bales faces 16
counts of murder with premeditation, six counts of attempted murder with
premeditation, six counts of assault, as well as other charges of impeding the
investigation, use and possession of steroids and the consumption of alcohol,
which is forbidden to Army soldiers in Afghanistan.
Colonel Morse, the prosecutor, said in his remarks that the blood on Sergeant
Bales’s clothes forensically matched the blood of some of the victims, and
Sergeant Bales’s own words, documented at the time, would show a “chilling
But witnesses talked about the strangeness they saw that night.
One of them, a soldier in the unit, Sgt. First Class Clayton Blackshear,
described Sergeant Bales at one point in the evening as “ghostlike.” Then he
shrugged. “There’s no word in the English language,” he said.
March 12, 2012
The New York Times
By TAIMOOR SHAH
and GRAHAM BOWLEY
PANJWAI, Afghanistan — Displaced by the war, Abdul Samad
finally moved his large family back home to this volatile district of southern
Afghanistan last year. He feared the Taliban, but his new house was nestled near
an American military base, where he considered himself safe.
But when Mr. Samad, 60, walked into his mud-walled dwelling here on Sunday
morning and found 11 of his relatives sprawled in all directions, shot in the
head, stabbed and burned, he learned the culprit was not a Taliban insurgent.
The shooting suspect was a 38-year-old United States staff sergeant who had
slipped out of the base to kill.
The American soldier is accused of killing 16 people in all in a bloody rampage
that has further tarnished Afghan-American relations and devastated Mr. Samad, a
respected village elder whose tired eyes poured forth tears one minute and
glared ahead in anger the next.
Once a believer in the offensive against the Taliban, he is now insistent that
the Americans get out. “I don’t know why they killed them,” said Mr. Samad, a
short, feeble man with a white beard and white turban, as he struggled in an
interview to come to terms with the loss of his wife, four daughters between the
ages of 2 and 6, four sons between 8 and 12, and two other relatives.
“Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the
Americans kill us,” Mr. Samad said outside the military base, known as Camp
Belambay, with outraged villagers who came to support him. They transported the
bodies of Mr. Samad’s family members, as well as the other victims, and the
burned blankets that had covered them as proof of the awful crime that had
After years of war, Mr. Samad, a poor farmer, had been reluctant to return to
his home in Panjwai, which was known in good times for its grapes and
But unlike other displaced villagers who stayed in the city of Kandahar, about
15 miles away, and other places around the troubled province, Mr. Samad listened
to the urgings of the provincial governor and the Afghan Army. They had
encouraged residents to return and reassured them that American forces would
Back in his village, a collection of a few houses known as Najibian, Mr. Samad
and his family moved into a neighbor’s house because his own had been destroyed
by NATO bombardments in the years of fierce battles.
His home in Panjwai and the other districts around Kandahar city — long the
Taliban’s heartland — had been a main hub of mujahedeen during the Soviet
occupation. The districts became ground zero for the surge of force ordered at
the end of 2009 by the Obama administration.
There had been little to no coalition presence in the area in the decade since
the war began, and American soldiers fought hard over the past two years to
clear Taliban fighters from the mud villages like Mr. Samad’s that dot the area.
At the same time, they struggled to win the trust of the Afghans who live in the
district, many of whom have proved wary of foreigners and fearful that the
Taliban — who were pushed to the margins in many areas but still remained a
forceful presence — would eventually return and extract a heavy toll from those
who cooperated with the Americans. Some American actions in the area also
alienated villagers, like the wholesale destruction of villages that commanders
decided were too riddled with booby traps to safely control.
While the Taliban were pushed back for a while, villagers like Mr. Samad say
they are still active and describe what an intolerable life caught between the
coalition forces and the Taliban while their meager vineyards and wheat fields
“Taliban are attacking the bases, planting mines, and the bases are firing
mortars and shooting indiscriminately toward the villages when they come under
attack,” said Malak Muhammad Mama, 50, a villager who now lives in Kandahar. He
said that a month ago, a mortar fired from the base killed a woman, and that
last week a roadside bomb hit an American armored vehicle.
It was against this background that, United States officials said, the soldier
left the American base and walked south about a mile to Mr. Samad’s village. Mr.
Samad and his teenage son survived because they had been visiting the nearby
town of Spinbaldak. When he reached his home, neighbors were putting out the
fire set on his family. One of his neighbors, an elderly woman named Anar Gula,
who had been cowering in her home, said she had heard an explosion, screaming
and shooting as the soldier broke down the door of Mr. Samad’s house and chased
his wife and two other female family members from room to room before he shot
Two of the women and some of the children had been stabbed, she and other
villagers said, and blankets had been laid over them and set alight — to hide
the stab wounds, she said.
Afterward, the soldier circled back north around the base to another village,
where he attacked the home of Hajji-Sayed Jan, 45, a poor laborer who had fled
to Kandahar city three times during the years of fighting but who had brought
his family back because he could not afford to live in the city, villagers said.
He was in Kandahar for the evening and so survived, but his wife, nephew,
grandson and brother were killed. Further on in the same village, the soldier
entered a home and fatally shot Muhammad Dawoud, 55, a farmer, when he emerged
from a room; his wife and children escaped to a neighbor’s house.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday that the staff sergeant returned
to the base after the killings “and basically turned himself in, told
individuals what had happened.” Asked if the soldier had confessed, Mr. Panetta
replied, “I suspect that was the case.”
Mr. Panetta, who spoke to reporters on his plane en route to Kyrgyzstan, said
that it was an Afghan soldier at the base who first noticed that the sergeant
was missing. “He reported it, they did a bed check, they had prepared a search
team to go out and try to find out where he was when they got news of what had
happened, and this individual then turned himself in,” he said.
The military would bring “appropriate charges” against the soldier, Mr. Panetta
said, and the death penalty “could be a consideration.”
He said the military was still struggling to understand a motive. “We’re not
sure why, what the reasons were,” he said. But he called the killings “a
criminal act” and said that he had assured President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan
that the soldier “will be brought to justice and be held accountable.”
The soldier, who started his first tour in Afghanistan in December after three
tours in Iraq, had been trained as a sniper and suffered a head injury in a
noncombat-related vehicle accident during a recent tour of duty in Iraq,
according to The Associated Press, which cited United States officials who spoke
only on the condition of anonymity. One official said there was no information
on whether the head injury could be linked to any later abnormal behavior, The
A Congressional source told The A.P. that the soldier was attached to a village
stability program in Belambi, a half-mile from where one attack took place.
Local elders and members of the provincial council gathered in Kandahar on
Monday to condemn the attacks, denounce their poor living conditions and
question the value of the American troop presence.
But while the mood in the south and in the capital, Kabul, was tense, there was
less of the outright fury that brought thousands onto the streets after Koran
burnings last month.
The Taliban posted some gory photographs from the attack on their Web site, and
photographs of the charred children circulated on many Afghan blogs and social
networks, along with enraged anti-American comments. In Kabul, Parliament issued
a statement saying its patience with the coalition forces was wearing thin.
About 10 deputies from Kandahar walked out in protest of the killings.
“We urge the United States government to punish the culprits and put them on
trial in an open court so that the rest of those who want to shed our innocent
people’s blood take a lesson from it,” the statement said.
Many Afghans, including Mr. Samad, continued to doubt that the attack was the
work of a single gunman, as the military said. Several of the villagers in
Panjwai said they had seen more than one soldier, as well as helicopters,
suggesting that it was an intentional coordinated attack.
However, in Kabul, senior American diplomats said in private meetings with other
allied officials what they have been insisting in public: that the shootings
were carried out by a single assailant who was now in the custody of United
States forces, according to American officials privy to the conversations. They
said helicopters were sent out after the attack to ferry at least five wounded
people from the villages to a NATO military hospital.
As for Mr. Samad, he said he was in too much despair to even think about how he
would carry on with his life. But he said the lesson of the deadly shootings was
clear: the Americans should leave. Mr. Karzai called Mr. Samad on Sunday after
the killings, and Mr. Samad, barefoot as he spoke plaintively into a satellite
phone with district officials gathered around, told the president: “Either
finish us or get rid of the Americans.”
“We made you president, and what happens to our family?” he told Mr. Karzai.
“The Americans kill us and then burn the dead bodies.”
December 14, 2011
The New York Times
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
BAGHDAD — One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the
truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific
episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi
civilians in the town of Haditha.
“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know,
discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies
here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at
the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq. At times, he
said, deaths were caused by “grenade attacks on a checkpoint and, you know,
collateral with civilians.”
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were
supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave
Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified
documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar
capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside
Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
The documents — many marked secret — form part of the military’s internal
investigation, and confirm much of what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River
town where Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a
wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.
Haditha became a defining moment of the war, helping cement an enduring Iraqi
distrust of the United States and a resentment that not one Marine has been
But the accounts are just as striking for what they reveal about the
extraordinary strains on the soldiers who were assigned here, their frustrations
and their frequently painful encounters with a population they did not
understand. In their own words, the report documents the dehumanizing nature of
this war, where Marines came to view 20 dead civilians as not “remarkable,” but
Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the
commander of American forces in Anbar, in his own testimony, described it as “a
cost of doing business.”
The stress of combat left some soldiers paralyzed, the testimony shows. Troops,
traumatized by the rising violence and feeling constantly under siege, grew
increasingly twitchy, killing more and more civilians in accidental encounters.
Others became so desensitized and inured to the killing that they fired on Iraqi
civilians deliberately while their fellow soldiers snapped pictures, and were
court-martialed. The bodies piled up at a time when the war had gone horribly
Charges were dropped against six of the accused Marines in the Haditha episode,
one was acquitted and the last remaining case against one Marine is scheduled to
go to trial next year.
That sense of American impunity ultimately poisoned any chance for American
forces to remain in Iraq, because the Iraqis would not let them stay without
being subject to Iraqi laws and courts, a condition the White House could not
Told about the documents that had been found, Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman
for the United States military in Iraq, said that many of the documents remained
classified and should have been destroyed. “Despite the way in which they were
improperly discarded and came into your possession, we are not at liberty to
discuss classified information,” he said.
He added: “We take any breach of classified information as an extremely serious
matter. In this case, the documents are being reviewed to determine whether an
investigation is warranted.” The military said it did not know from which
investigation the documents had come, but the papers appear to be from an
inquiry by Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell into the events in Haditha. The documents
ultimately led to a report that concluded that the Marine Corps’s chain of
command engaged in “willful negligence” in failing to investigate the episode
and that Marine commanders were far too willing to tolerate civilian casualties.
That report, however, did not include the transcripts.
Many of those testifying at bases in Iraq or the United States were clearly
under scrutiny for not investigating an atrocity and may have tried to shape
their statements to dispel any notion that they had sought to cover up the
events. But the accounts also show the consternation of the Marines as they
struggled to control an unfamiliar land and its people in what amounted to a
constant state of siege from fighters who were nearly indistinguishable from
Some, feeling they were under attack constantly, decided to use force first and
ask questions later. If Marines took fire from a building, they would often
level it. Drivers who approached checkpoints without stopping were assumed to be
“When a car doesn’t stop, it crosses the trigger line, Marines engage and, yes,
sir, there are people inside the car that are killed that have nothing to do
with it,” Sgt. Maj. Edward T. Sax, the battalion’s senior noncommissioned
He added, “I had Marines shoot children in cars and deal with the Marines
individually one on one about it because they have a hard time dealing with
Sergeant Major Sax said he would ask the Marines responsible if they had known
there had been children in the car. When they said no, he said he would tell
them they were not at fault. He said he felt for the Marines who had fired the
shots, saying they would carry a lifelong burden.
“It is one thing to kill an insurgent in a head-on fight,” Sergeant Major Sax
testified. “It is a whole different thing — and I hate to say it, the way we are
raised in America — to injure a female or injure a child or in the worse case,
kill a female or kill a child.”
They could not understand why so many Iraqis just did not stop at checkpoints
and speculated that it was because of illiteracy or poor eyesight.
“They don’t have glasses and stuff,” Col. John Ledoux said. “It really makes you
wonder because some of the things that they would do just to keep coming. You
know, it’s hard to imagine they would just keep coming, but sometimes they do.”
Such was the environment in 2005, when the Marines from Company K of the Third
Battalion, First Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, Calif., arrived in Anbar
Province, where Haditha is located, many for their second or third tours in
The province had become a stronghold for disenfranchised Sunnis and foreign
fighters who wanted to expel the United States from Iraq, or just kill as many
Americans as possible. Of the 4,483 American deaths in Iraq, 1,335 happened in
In 2004, four Blackwater contractors were gunned down and dragged through the
streets of Falluja, their bodies burned and hung on a bridge over the Euphrates.
Days later, the United States military moved into the city, and chaos ensued in
Anbar Province for the next two years as the Americans tried to fight off the
The stress of combat soon bore down. A legal adviser to the Marine unit stopped
taking his medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder and stopped functioning.
“We had the one where Marines had photographed themselves taking shots at
people,” Col. R. Kelly testified, saying that they immediately called the Naval
Criminal Investigative Service and “confiscated their little camera.” He said
the soldiers involved received a court-martial.
All of this set the stage for what happened in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005.
A Tragedy Ensues
That morning, a military convoy of four vehicles was heading to an outpost in
Haditha when one of the vehicles was hit by a roadside bomb.
Several Marines got out to attend to the wounded, including one who eventually
died, while others looked for insurgents who might have set off the bomb. Within
a few hours 24 Iraqis — including a 76-year-old man and children between the
ages of 3 and 15 — were killed, many inside their homes.
Townspeople contended that the Marines overreacted to the attack and shot
civilians, only one of whom was armed. The Marines said they thought they were
When the initial reports arrived saying more than 20 civilians had been killed
in Haditha, the Marines receiving them said they were not surprised by the high
civilian death toll.
Chief Warrant Officer K. R. Norwood, who received reports from the field on the
day of the killings and briefed commanders on them, testified that 20 dead
civilians was not unusual.
“I meant, it wasn’t remarkable, based off of the area I wouldn’t say remarkable,
sir,” Mr. Norwood said. “And that is just my definition. Not that I think one
life is not remarkable, it’s just —”
An investigator asked the officer: “I mean remarkable or noteworthy in terms of
something that would have caught your attention where you would have immediately
said, ‘Got to have more information on that. That is a lot of casualties.’ ”
“Not at the time, sir,” the officer testified.
General Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, said he did
not feel compelled to go back and examine the events because they were part of a
continuing pattern of civilian deaths.
“It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but
throughout the whole country,” General Johnson testified, using a military
abbreviation for allied forces in western Iraq.
“So, you know, maybe — I guess maybe if I was sitting here at Quantico and heard
that 15 civilians were killed I would have been surprised and shocked and gone —
done more to look into it,” he testified, referring to Marine Corps Base
Quantico in Virginia. “But at that point in time, I felt that was — had been,
for whatever reason, part of that engagement and felt that it was just a cost of
doing business on that particular engagement.”
When Marines arrived on the scene to assess the number of dead bodies, at least
one Marine thought it would be a good time to take pictures for his own keeping.
“I know I had one Marine who was taking pictures just to take pictures and I
told him to delete all those pictures,” testified a first lieutenant identified
as M. D. Frank.
The documents uncovered by The Times — which include handwritten notes from
soldiers, waivers by Marines of their right against self-incrimination, diagrams
of where dead women and children were found, and pictures of the site where the
Marine was killed by a roadside bomb on the day of the massacre — remain
In a meeting with journalists in October, before the military had been told
about the discovery of the documents, the American commander in charge of the
logistics of the withdrawal said that files from the bases were either
transferred to other parts of the military or incinerated.
“We don’t put official paperwork in the trash,” said the commander, Maj. Gen.
Thomas Richardson, at the meeting at the American Embassy in Baghdad.
The documents were piled in military trailers and hauled to the junkyard by an
Iraqi contractor who was trying to sell off the surplus from American bases, the
junkyard attendant said. The attendant said he had no idea what any of the
documents were about, only that they were important to the Americans.
He said that over the course of several weeks he had burned dozens and dozens of
binders, turning more untold stories about the war into ash.
“What can we do with them?” the attendant said. “These things are worthless to
us, but we understand they are important and it is better to burn them to
protect the Americans. If they are leaving, it must mean their work here is
March 2, 2011
Filed at 8:14 a.m. EST
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — NATO has apologized for killing nine civilians in
Kunar province, a hotbed of the insurgency in northeast Afghanistan.
In a statement Wednesday, the coalition said preliminary findings indicate that
NATO forces accidentally killed nine civilians in the Pech district of Kunar
province on Tuesday. Local officials say nine boys, ages 12 and under, were
killed as they were gathering firewood.
The coalition says there apparently was miscommunication in passing information
about the location of militants firing on a coalition base.
Top NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus said the coalition was "deeply sorry" for
the tragedy and said the deaths should never have occurred. Petraeus says he
will personally apologize to President Hamid Karzai when he returns from London.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's
earlier story is below.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Several hundred villagers protested Wednesday against
coalition strikes that they claim killed scores of civilians, including nine
boys, in a hotbed of the insurgency in the northeast. NATO has contested the
claims, saying armed insurgents, not civilians, were killed.
Civilian casualties have long been a source of friction between Afghan President
Hamid Karzai and the U.S.-led international force fighting in Afghanistan.
Karzai's office issued a statement condemning the NATO strike.
"Innocent children who were collecting fire wood for their families during this
cold winter were killed. Is this the way to fight terrorism and maintain
stability in Afghanistan?" Karzai asked in the statement. He said NATO should
focus more on "terrorist sanctuaries" — a phrase he typically uses when
referring to Taliban refuges in neighboring Pakistan.
Noorullah Noori, a member of the local development council in Manogai district,
said four of the nine boys killed were age 7, three were age 8, one was nine
years old and one was 12. Also, one child was wounded, he said.
He said the children were gathering wood under a tree in the mountains on
Tuesday about a half kilometer from a village in Manogai district.
"I myself was involved in the burial," he said. "Yesterday we buried them at 5
He said that during the four-hour demonstration, protesters chanted "Death to
America" and "Death to the spies," a reference to what they said was bad
intelligence given to helicopter weapons teams.
The coalition said it was investigating the villagers' allegations. NATO said
coalition forces returned fire after two rockets were fired at a coalition base,
slightly wounding a local contractor.
Late last month, tribal elders in Kunar claimed that NATO forces killed more
than 50 civilians in air and ground strikes. The international coalition denied
that claim, saying video showed troops targeting and killing dozens of
insurgents and a subsequent investigation yielded no evidence that civilians had
been killed. An Afghan government investigation has said that 65 civilians were
In Logar province on Tuesday, four Afghan soldiers and their interpreter were
killed by a roadside bomb, according to Din Mohammad Darwesh, a spokesman for
the province. He said Wednesday that the soldiers were on a joint patrol with
U.S. forces when their vehicle hit the bomb planted in Charkh district.
February 9, 2011
Filed at 3:16 a.m. ET
The New York Times
KABUL (Reuters) - An average of two children per day were killed in
Afghanistan last year, with areas of the once peaceful north now among the most
dangerous, an independent Afghan rights watchdog said on Wednesday.
The Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) said in a report that, of the 2,421
civilians the group registered as killed in conflict-related security incidents
in 2010, some 739 were under the age of 18.
It attributed almost two thirds of the child deaths to "armed opposition groups"
(AOGs), or insurgents, and blamed U.S. and NATO-led forces for 17 percent.
The ARM report said many of the reported child casualties occurred in the
violent southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, the traditional strongholds
of the Taliban insurgency.
But Kunar in the east and Kunduz in the north were also among the most dangerous
provinces for children, it said, underlining how violence has spread from
insurgent strongholds in the south and east to previously peaceful areas of the
Civilian and military casualties hit record levels in 2010, with violence at its
worst since the Taliban were overthrown by U.S.-led Afghan forces in late 2001.
War-related child deaths in 2010 were down on 2009, when ARM said 1,050 were
killed. However the watchdog warned: "Children were highly vulnerable to the
harms of war but little was done by the combatant sides, particularly by the
AOGs, to ensure child safety and security during military and security
A United Nations report late last year found that civilian casualties in
Afghanistan rose 20 percent in the first 10 months of 2010 compared with 2009,
with more than three-quarters killed or wounded by insurgents.
The report found that there were 6,215 civilian casualties, including 2,412
deaths, in that period. Those caused by Afghan and foreign "pro-government"
forces accounting for 12 percent of the total, an 18 percent drop on the same
period in 2009.
Civilian casualties in NATO-led military operations, often caused by air strikes
and night raids, have long been a source of friction between the Afghan
government and its Western partners.
Rules governing air strikes and night raids have been tightened significantly by
NATO-led forces in the past two years.
On Monday, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said a
child had been killed inadvertently in an air strike during coalition operations
in Helmand. The child was found dead in a compound near the target of the
strike, it said.
The ARM report said most of the child deaths were caused by homemade bombs,
followed by suicide attacks, air strikes and mortars.