British "war crimes" in Afghanistan emerge

September 27, 2021 - 17:11

TEHRAN - New figures have revealed that British forces had been involved in the murder of nearly 300 Afghan civilians, which include at least 86 children and more than 200 adult civilians during the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

The number obtained by the London-based charity group Action on Armed Violence is a small fraction of what advocate organizations believe is a much higher level of war crimes committed by British soldiers.

For the civilians killed, the UK Ministry of Defense paid compensation of just £2,380 on average for every civilian life lost.

In other words, for the UK, the life of an Afghan civilian during the war was worth "on average" only £2,380.

But these are just some of the figures released, and the actual number of civilians killed at the hands of British forces during the war in Afghanistan is unclear.

Also, that is the "average" amount of money paid to the families of the victims who had been murdered. In many cases, the money given in compensation for killing Afghan civilians had been much less. The death toll and balance paid out have been documented in official Ministry of Defense compensation logs and obtained by the Action on Armed Violence.

According to the data, the youngest civilian victim recorded was just three years old.

One of the most severe incidents listed in the records is the compensation of £4,233.60 to a family following the death of four children who were alleged "mistakenly shot and killed" in an incident in December 2009. Many military experts would be questioning exactly how four children of the same family can be "mistakenly shot and killed".

Experts say London is covering up the crimes British forces have conducted in Afghanistan and only reveals them when the government comes under immense pressure. Nevertheless, no military figures have been held accountable for the murders and executions committed by its soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Some of the payments amounted to less than a few hundred pounds.

In February 2008, one family received £104.17 following a confirmed fatality and damage to a property in Helmand province. At the same time, another was compensated £586.42 for the death of their 10-year-old son in December 2009.

In the British logs, many of the incidents are recorded only briefly.The data by the London-based charity examined the logs to coincide with the withdrawal of U.S.-led western forces from Afghanistan last month, culminating in the chaotic airlift from Kabul international airport. There is a renewed focus on civilian casualties in Afghanistan after the U.S. was forced to admit that a drone strike last month killed ten civilians, including seven children. Not what Washington claimed were members from the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group first narrated.

Following heavy pressure, General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said a "terrible mistake" was made. The U.S. Central Command investigation found that an aid worker and nine family members, including seven children, died in the 29 August strike instead. The youngest child, Sumaya, was just two years old.

The deadly strike happened days after a terror attack at Kabul airport, amid a frenzied evacuation effort following the Taliban's sudden return to power. It was one of the U.S. military's final acts in Afghanistan before ending its 20-year war and occupation.

U.S. Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie admitted that U.S. intelligence had tracked the civilian aid worker's car for eight hours, believing it was linked to Daesh affiliated terrorists. The incident added to the stain of U.S. intelligence; that has come under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in West Asia over the past twenty years, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Yemen as well as Muslim African countries.

In the British logs, many of the incidents are recorded only briefly. Murray Jones, the author of the research, says, "these files do not make for easy reading. The banality of language means hundreds of tragic deaths, including dozens of children, read more like an inventory."

Action on Armed Violence estimates 20,390 civilians were killed or injured by international and U.S.-trained Afghan forces during the 20-year war. A total of 457 British soldiers also died during the period, while the UK had spent about £21 billion from 2001 to 2014. The precise cost for the remaining seven years has not been published.

Overall, the compensation logs show £688,000 was paid out by the UK military for incidents involving 289 deaths between 2006 and 2013, the last year of British combat operations in the country, meaning the average compensation paid by the Ministry of Defense per civilian killed was £2,380.

Payments recorded also relate to operations involving the SAS, which has been accused of being involved in the execution of civilians during the war. The family of three Afghan farmers allegedly killed in cold blood in 2012 received £3,634 three weeks after the incident. The logs describe the money as an "assistance payment to be made to calm the local atmosphere."

Anti-war campaigners have called for the executions and other potential war crimes committed by British forces to be investigated by an international tribunal. They say compensation does not go far enough, and the UK should be held to account under international law like every other country in the world.

In some cases, payments for property damage were more significant than those recorded for the loss of human life. For example, during 2009-10, the Ministry of Defense awarded £873 for a damaged crane and £662 for the death of six donkeys "when they wandered on to the rifle range."

The payout data is one of the few ways to establish how many civilians were likely to have been killed by British forces in Afghanistan, as the Ministry of Defense has said in response to other freedom of information requests that "it does not hold any figures centrally."

British officials have claimed that efforts are routinely made to minimize the impact of military operations on civilians. But in other contexts, the UK has only made limited admissions; for example, the Ministry of Defense claims that there has been one civilian casualty during the Royal Air Force bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq against Daesh during more than 10,000 missions since August 2014.

A Ministry spokesperson said the amount of compensation paid in each case was determined by a mixture of principles as well as "local customs and practices." The spokesperson claims, "every civilian death is a tragedy and the UK always seeks to minimize the risk of civilian casualties through our rigorous targeting processes, but that risk can never be removed entirely."

The Ministry has previously said that it has reviewed allegations of SAS involvement in extrajudicial executions and claims there was "insufficient evidence for prosecution." Much to the anger of human rights organizations and anti-war campaigners who are demanding justice for Britain's role in the extrajudicial killings, the executions, the murders of civilians, and other war crimes committed in a war that critics say the United Kingdom should never have been involved within the first place.

Analysts say the British government put aside dozens of legal cases of potential murder of civilians by its troops in Afghanistan at the risk of opening Pandora's Box, where the more severe crimes could potentially emerge.

In any case, the need for an international tribunal to investigate war crimes committed by U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan is something that the United States strongly opposes. Critics say if Washington has nothing to hide, then it should allow the process of an international probe.

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