Kunduz Attack – Turbans turned Shrouds

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Not less than hundred innocent children as young as 11 to 12 years were killed by the Airstrikes of Afghan Airforce on a gathering of religious School in Dasht-i Archi district outside Kunduz city on April 2. These Children were supposed to be graduating that day for memorizing Quran and were going to receive their certificates and gifts. Instead, they received deadly bombing from the sky. An eyewitness told Al-Jazeera that it was a disaster with blood everywhere. White traditional turbans which are used as a symbol of graduating were dyed in blood and turned into a shroud.

Kunduz is an important province of northern Afghanistan. It connects northern Afghanistan to Central Asia. This attack is quite similar to the American Air attack, on October 3, 2015, when Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was hit and destroyed by AC-130 gunship which resulted in the deaths of 42 civilians mostly patients and Medical staff. When the aerial attack began, there were 105 patients in the hospital. After some days of the Airstrike, US military personnel rammed into the gate of a medical aid group’s hospital. Medecins Sans Frontieres Spokesman said that a US tank had entered the grounds of its hospital in Kunduz without permission, damaging the compound, destroying potential evidence, and distressing its staff. Not only Kunduz but the whole Afghanistan population is severely affected by the long-running war. Since 2009 to 2017, Afghan conflict has cost 28,291 civilians lives. These casualties are other than those occurred in US drone strikes in different countries.

In 2017 U.S. warplanes bombed at a Suzuki truck which resulted in the death of 10 civilians including three children one an infant in his mother’s arms. On January 31, 2018, Afghan special forces backed by US air raids launched an offensive against Taliban fighters in the Maiwand district in Kandahar, according to a Human Rights Watch report, released in February at least 20 civilians were killed in the operation.

For only 2017 United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented (UNAMA) documented more than 10,000 causalities in Afghanistan. According to Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan 2017, 10,453 civilian casualties – 3,438 deaths and 7,015 wounded are being. This report also describes the fact that the number of airstrikes conducted by international military forces and Afghan air forces increased significantly and with it, the number of airstrike-related deaths has also increased. According to UNAMA,  2017 has seen the highest number of aerial attacks since 2009 with 631 civilian casualties. Danielle Bell, a U.N. official for human rights in Afghanistan has cautioned that 2017 was the consecutive fourth year with more than 10,000 casualties.

Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal condemned the strike as an “irresponsible” action, cautioning such attacks are detrimental to efforts aimed at ending the ongoing “bloody and destructive war.” Afghanistan former president Hamid Karzai has also strongly condemned this airstrike in Dashte Archi, Kunduz that killed and wounded civilians. Karzai said, “such raids, carried out in the name of fighting terrorism, on our homes, hospitals and religious facilities are against all principles”۔

The killing of civilians in armed conflict is also against International laws. United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 2444 on December 19, 1968, which stresses on providing basic human rights to civilians in armed conflicts. Unanimous resolution of the League of Nations Assembly which passed on September 30, 1938, had condemned bombing on civilians in case of war. Geneva Convention IV Article XVIII states that Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict. On 22 November 2010, the Security Council considered the latest report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed Conflict and adopted a presidential statement in which it endorsed an updated aide-memoire on the protection of civilians. On August 2, 2016, in a day-long debate Child rights violation in armed conflicts were highlighted.

Despite all these steps, Human rights violation is increasing day by day. Although UNAMA has said on Twitter that a Human rights team will investigate the situation. But grim steps are needed by the world leaders to protect the lives of civilians.US Air force spokeswoman in Afghanistan has washed her hands by saying that they were not involved in Dasht-e Archi attacks. But it is not a hidden fact that Afghan Airforce is backed by US-led NATO coalition advisers.

The Afghan government has tried to hide the facts by saying that no civilians were present at the target area rather thirty Taliban fighters including nine top commanders have been killed in airstrikes. But it has failed to hide the pictures of innocent child victims of the strike which are viral on social media. It is impossible that 9 to 10 years old children become top Taliban officials.

Peaceful Afghanistan is prerequisite for regional stability and development. Kunduz Strikes like incidents will exacerbate the situation and will provide recruitment avenues to militants. Kunduz is also important in this regard because ISIS is making inroads in northern Afghanistan and it can use revenge sentiments of locals as a tactic for spreading chaos. According to many regional analysts, table talks is the best solution for bringing 17 years long war to an end “Victory cannot be won on the battlefield — a solution is and must be political,” Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council. EU’s special envoy to Afghanistan Roland Kobia after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart urged all countries and organizations in contact with the Taliban to get them to the negotiating tables for a peace agreement. But incidents like Kunduz can become a hurdle in the peace process.

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