Counting Conflict: Quantifying Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

Abstract: Civilian casualty counts are products of specific methods, epistemologies, standards of proofs, and definitions. This article analyzes how the US military and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan assess civilian casualties. These counts are based on different and contestable concepts of who counts as a civilian, what counts as conflict violence, and what counts of evidence of civilian casualties. We illustrate this argument with four examples: the distinction between direct and indirect deaths, the boundary between civilians and non-civilians, the boundary between conflict violence and criminal violence, and hierarchies in the visibility of civilians.

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About Christiane Wilke

Christiane Wilke is an Associate Professor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. She has received her PhD in Political Science from the New School for Social Research and has published her research on state violence, memory, and legal redress in journals such as Journal of Human Rights, Social & Legal Studies, and London Review of International Law. Her current research project examines how civilian victims of airstrikes are counted and taken into consideration in accountability measures.

About Mohd Khalid Naseemi

Mohd Khalid Naseemi is an MA in International Affairs with specialization of International Development Policy (IDP) from Norman Peterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) of Carleton University. He has an undergraduate degree (BA) from the Faculty of Journalism and Communication from Kabul University, and a Master’s degree in Political Science from Islamic Azad University (IAU) in Kabul. He has completed his MA Thesis on federalism, multiethnic politics, and decentralization in Afghanistan. He is currently serving as the Director of Afghanistan’s Chapter of Global Union of Scientists for Peace (GUSP). For over fifteen years he has worked in the areas of policy, administration, and management in various positions and has a wide range of experience with government, civil society, and NGOs in Canada and Afghanistan.