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Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Volume 488: debated on Friday 27 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what account UK forces in Afghanistan have taken of the concerns about Afghan civilian casualties expressed by the Secretary General of the United Nations; and what steps are being taken to minimise such casualties. (256248)

We share the Secretary-General’s concerns about civilian casualties, the vast majority of which are caused by the insurgency. We do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties but, despite our efforts to specifically target the insurgents, there are times when the ordinary people of Afghanistan are harmed by the conflict.

We are deeply saddened by any civilian deaths in Afghanistan. We particularly regret incidents where civilians are killed as a result of actions by international forces.

We continue to take incidents of civilian casualties very seriously. They present a real risk to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and international forces’ presence and support in Afghanistan. ISAF has made strenuous efforts to reduce incidents. The UK welcomes the recent Tactical directive from the commander of ISAF which further tightens the rules of engagement in Afghanistan to cut civilian casualties. The new rules stress the need for proportionate use of force and for Afghan forces to take the lead in searching Afghan homes and religious sites unless a clear danger is identified.