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How much is an Afghan life worth? That depends

Published Mar 20, 2017 02:26pm


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In March 2014, the US military paid an Afghan man just over $1,000 to compensate for killing his civilian son in an operation near the border with Iran, according to US military records released to Reuters.

Six months later, another Afghan father was given $10,000 by the US military after his child, also a civilian, was killed in an American-led military operation in the same province.

And 68-year-old Haji Allah Dad lost 20 relatives, including his brother and sister-in-law, in a US and Afghan special forces operation near the northern city of Kunduz last November.

Allah Dad said he received no money from the US military, though he did get compensation from the Afghan government.

Nearly 16 years since invading Afghanistan, the United States has no standardised process for making compensation payments to the families of thousands of Afghan civilians killed or injured in US-led military operations.

It first started paying the families of Afghan victims as a way to counter Taliban militants who were doing the same.

America's approach to compensation is arbitrary by design as it tries to negotiate Afghanistan's cultural and regional sensitivities as a foreign military force.

But civil activists say the system is unfair and confusing for often poor and uneducated Afghans.

A Pentagon spokesman said the military leaves the decision on how much to pay to commanders on the ground because they are best positioned to judge the incidents.

"Condolence payments in Afghanistan are based on cultural norms of the local area, advice from Afghan partners, and the circumstances of the event," said spokesman Adam Stump.

"US commanders in theater are therefore empowered to make decisions regarding payments as they have the greatest understanding of these factors," Stump said.

It is unclear how the US military puts these factors in monetary terms.

Washington started making condolence payments in Afghanistan in 2005 after realising that the Taliban was gaining influence and goodwill by giving civilians money after fatal US strikes, according to the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a US-based advocacy and research group.

The United States does not have to pay compensation to civilians killed in its military actions under international and national law.

However, it has made such payments going back to the Korean War in the 1950s. In some cases, it paid compensation to the relatives of civilians it killed in the Iraq conflict.

Critics warn the lack of standardisation in compensation payments means Afghan civilian victims are not treated equally as the conflict there grinds on.

The top US commander in Afghanistan has said several thousand more troops would be needed to break a stalemate with the Taliban.

"It's of great concern that we're talking about stepping up the way that we carry operations without a standard operating procedure for making condolence payments," said Marla Keenan, senior director of programs at the Center for Civilians in Conflict.

"A man in Kandahar may get $4,000 for his damaged car while a woman in Gardez gets $1,000 for her dead child. Civilians deserve better,” Keenan said.


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Comments (10) Closed

karachi wala Mar 20, 2017 02:27pm

They must be sent back to Afghanistan.

Qadir ali Mar 20, 2017 02:29pm

Afghans have no role in Pakistan,let them go back to Afghanistan.

Faisal Bajwa Mar 20, 2017 02:41pm

Same as a European or an American.

Saif Zulfiqar Mar 20, 2017 04:29pm

For the rich countries, who are involved in the wars, humanbeings for them are of no value.

iftikhaR bhutta Mar 20, 2017 04:43pm

Afghan must leave Pakistan as they are trouble shooters and have created mess of terrorism and extremism .

KHALID YOUSAFZAI (UK) Mar 20, 2017 04:44pm

@Saif Zulfiqar ...and these rich countries cannot afford more than $1000 per casualty...

Yankee Babu Mar 20, 2017 06:04pm

I was so happy to see border re-open. I hope peace prevail people from both countries are suffering. it's pity to see we are judging human life in terms of material value

omer khan shaheen Mar 21, 2017 12:24am

The worth of an Afghan life, just like any other human being is priceless!

N.R.Shaaiq Mar 21, 2017 08:06am

I think Afghans should not take money as a compensation, because the life of an innocent is more precious than money.

Yankee Babu Mar 21, 2017 08:16am

@Saif Zulfiqar 100% agree with u brother.We need to do something to elevate our social status