The US failed to properly investigate civilian killings, including possible war crimes, which occurred during its military operations in Afghanistan, rights group Amnesty International has said.
Left in the Dark, a report by the group published on Monday, focused on 10 incidents between 2009 and 2013 that it said involved the deaths of 140 civilians during US military operations.
“The US military’s investigative and prosecutorial practices fall far short of what is needed to ensure accountability for alleged crimes against civilians,” the report said.
The legacy of international military operations is seriously tainted, however, when military forces leave behind families whose efforts to seek justice have been ignored.
“In numerous cases in which there is credible evidence of unlawful killings of civilians, the military has failed to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations.”
Most of the incidents investigated by Amnesty involved airstrikes and night raids carried out by US forces – both of which are tactics condemned in Afghanistan by citizens and the government.
The US has previously come under fire from the Afghan government for not taking enough care to prevent the deaths of civilians.
Defense Department spokeswoman Navy Cmdr Amy Derrick-Frost told Al Jazeera US forces go to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
“The Department of Defense takes seriously all credible reports of civilian deaths and injuries. We hold ourselves to high standards of conduct and accountability,” she said.
“In those instances in which civilians have been killed or injured, after-action reviews have been conducted to determine why, and to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimise the risk of civilians being killed or injured in the future.”
Amnesty said the vast majority of family members it interviewed said they had never been interviewed by US military investigators.
“None of the cases that we looked into, involving more than 140 civilian deaths, were prosecuted by the US military,” Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director, said in a statement.
“Evidence of possible war crimes and unlawful killings has seemingly been ignored.”
In two of the cases, one in Paktia province in 2010 and another in Wardak province from November 2012 to February 2013 Amnesty’s report said there was “abundant and compelling evidence of war crimes”.
The Department of Defense said it “takes seriously its obligation to treat humanely all individuals in its custody, and it investigates all credible allegations of misconduct. We take vigilant action to prevent such conduct and to hold any such perpetrators accountable for their wrongful acts.”
A spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Chris Belcher, said authorities were reviewing the report and would respond later.
Afghan civilians increasingly find themselves under fire as the 2001 US-led war draws to a close, as Afghan forces take the lead in operations targeting the Taliban.
In its report, Amnesty International said US and NATO forces have made significant strides towards preventing civilian casualties, though lingering questions over the 10 incidents it cited casts a pall over their efforts.
“The legacy of international military operations is seriously tainted, however, when military forces leave behind families whose efforts to seek justice have been ignored,” the report said.