Civilian casualties in Afghanistan – intent and outcomes
US airstrikes on 6 July in the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan were assessed to have killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, according to an investigation by Afghan parliamentarians. On 7 July, 41 people were reported dead and another 141 reported injured in a bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
These two incidents illustrate one of the fundamental issues regarding the legitimacy of explosive violence – namely the relationship between intention and outcome. Whatever the failures in strategic planning or implementation, the outcome of the US strikes is unlikely to have matched the intention (wherever that may be said to reside). The attack on the Indian Embassy, which involved self-killing on the part of the bomber, may have exceeded the bombers intent. However, it is difficult to assume that the outcome of this attack was wholly different to the intention.
Despite these assumed differences of orientation to civilian casualties in intent, the relative status of the actors – most notably different expectations regarding their accountability to Afghan citizens – fundamentally shifts perception of the outcomes. Although NATO emphasises that the Taleban and insurgent elements are responsible for “more” civilian deaths and injuries (at an approximate ratio of 1:2 according to UN data) – this appeal seems insufficient to build acceptance of the NATO-caused casualties.
Explosive violence seems to provide the greater utility to those for whom the gap between intent and outcome is less significant.