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Central & South Asia
Taliban offers civilian death probe
Statement calls for UN, Nato and Taliban officials to study civilian casualties.
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2010 11:30 GMT
The offer was posted on the Taliban's English-language Web site, and has not been confirmed

A spokesman for the Taliban has offered to set up a joint committee with the United Nations and Nato to study civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

A recent UN report blamed anti-government groups, including the Taliban, for most of this year's civilian casualties. In a statement posted on its website, the Taliban called the report "biased and subjective", and called for a joint study.

"The stated committee should be given a free hand to survey the affected areas as well as people in order to collect the precise information and the facts and figures and disseminate its findings worldwide," the statement said.

It said the committee should also include representatives from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that diplomats from Nato countries were "cautiously considering" the offer.

The UN report (pdf), released last week, found that civilian casualties jumped by 31 per cent in the first six months of this year. The UN attributed 76 per cent of those casualties to anti-government groups.

'True nature of war'

The Taliban's statement was attributed to Zabiullah Mujahid, one of the self-proclaimed spokesmen for the group. The committee offer has not yet been confirmed by higher-level Taliban figures.

rising casualties
Two recent studies blamed the majority of this year's civilian casualties on the Taliban and other anti-government groups. United Nations: Insurgents caused 76 per cent of 3,268 civilian casualties. Afghanistan Rights Monitor: Insurgents caused 61 per cent of 1,074 civilian deaths.

Anti-government groups have repeatedly made a rhetorical commitment to protect civilians, even though their actions continue to result in thousands of civilian casualties.

"It shows that the Taliban are trying to promote the political aspect of their insurgency in Afghanistan," Walilullah Rahmani, the executive director of the Kabul Centre for Strategic Studies, said in an e-mail to Al Jazeera.

The Taliban issued a "code of conduct" last year, a document which urged fighters to take steps to avoid civilian casualties. An updated version was released earlier this month.

"The Taliban must treat civilians according to Islamic norms and morality to win over the hearts and minds of the people," the updated document said.

Candace Rondeaux, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group in Kabul, said the code - written by the Taliban's leadership - has often been ignored in the field.

"Their control over the commanders in the field has weakened," Rondeaux told Al Jazeera. "Nobody's in charge anymore."

Contingency planning

Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM), a Kabul-based NGO, said in a statement that it welcomed the Taliban's offer to study the issue, and urged the Taliban to "accept and implement" any recommendations on reducing civilian deaths.

"Understanding the true nature of war and its impacts on civilian people is an irrefutable right of the Afghan people, and this must not be violated by any warring party," the group said.

The group also urged the Taliban to guarantee the safety of investigators working on the proposed committee. Security will almost certainly be one of the biggest concerns for Nato diplomats discussing the proposal.

"Logistically this is very difficult, to provide security... especially when it's obvious the Taliban leadership doesn't have the kind of authority it used to," Rondeaux said.

ARM released its own report last month which blamed anti-government groups for 61 per cent of civilian casualties in the first half of 2010.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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