Fault Lines

Afghanistan: Civilian Loss in the US Air War

Civilian casualties investigated amid a surging air campaign as US prepares for possible withdrawal from Afghanistan.

As the United States increased its use of air attacks in the war in Afghanistan, it has come with a heavy cost, as civilian casualties have reached record numbers.

In Afghanistan: Civilian Loss in the US Air War, Fault Lines reports on how the US military conducts its investigations when there are allegations of civilian casualties, and what justice looks like for civilians who lost loved ones to air attacks.

The US dropped more munitions on Afghanistan in 2019 than any other year in the past decade.

The first half of 2019 marked the first time in 10 years that deaths caused by US and Afghan forces surpassed those by the Taliban, a development the UN attributed to increased air attacks.

Both the US and Afghan militaries have poor records of investigating civilian casualties from air attacks. The US often disputes allegations of civilian harm, and does not routinely interview survivors or witnesses of these attacks.

Sometimes, when the US or Afghan militaries acknowledge civilian casualties, they will give families money for their loss – known as a condolence payment. But families told us what they really want are answers and justice.

As the US prepares for the possibility of leaving Afghanistan after nearly 20 years, Fault Lines asks how civilian loss is investigated and remembered.

Fault Lines partnered with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to examine civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Their report can be read here