How civilian casualties were “tracked” in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, civilian casualty tracking by ISAF, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, informed the conflict's impact on civilians, enabled organisations to crosscheck data, and fostered conversation regarding changes to operations to prevent and mitigate civilian harm.

ISAF -Civilian Casualty Tracking in Practice

ISAF leadership created the CCTC in 2008 because of the need to address allegations of ISAF-caused civilian casualties. The initial mechanism was modest, requiring little planning and reallocation of resources. A small CCTC staff collected and centralised data reported from the field, using the data to attempt to verify civilian casualty allegations and keep ISAF leadership informed. By late 2009, the CCTC amassed enough data to analyse it for trends. This aggregated data was used for reports and recommendations addressing civilian casualty mitigation for ISAF leadership.

The CCTC’s work proved valuable, prompting ISAF in 2011 to expand the mechanism into the Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team. The expansion gave the mechanism more personnel, resources, and responsibility, including increased engagement with civil society on civilian casualty concerns. Its data was used to influence recommendations for tactical directives and pre-deployment training.

In implementing the CCTC and subsequent CCMT, ISAF repeatedly emphasised the importance of tracking, helping make it a priority down the chain of command. Coordination across ISAF was necessary in order to collect standardised data that could be usefully analysed. Accounting for civilian casualties caused by special operations forces or clandestine agencies posed an extra challenge for ISAF’s transparency and messaging efforts. Finally, building trust was a vital part of bolstering relationships with groups outside of ISAF that could crosscheck data and help defuse false allegations. The UNAMA HR bi-annual Protection of Civilians report proved useful for comparing the organisations’ data.

Examining Civilian Harm Tracking and Casualty Recording in Afghanistan, p. 2