The Common Good

As Civilian Casualties Spike in Afghanistan, New Attempts to Reward 'Courageous Restraint'

Two recent news reports on the war in Afghanistan present a more complete story together.

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

One reported that civilian deaths are rapidly rising in Afghanistan, after a period in which they had been steeply declining. And the rise is largely due to shootings at checkpoints:

Shootings of Afghan civilians by American and NATO convoys and at military checkpoints have spiked sharply this year, becoming the leading cause of combined civilian deaths and injuries at the hands of Western forces.

It is one of the paradoxes of counter-insurgency war. Any hope for a military outcome rests on success in winning the local population, yet insurgents are often indistinguishable from the people. Soldiers at checkpoints are "faced with a different challenge of snap decisions" by troops "much closer to not only the people but the enemy," said Gen. David Rodriguez, the operational commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. A soldier often has a split second to decide whether the car approaching the checkpoint contains women and children or a car bomb that could take his life. And so if the vehicle doesn't stop when ordered, the normal response is to fire.

The other story reported that the military is considering a new "courageous restraint" award for troops who avoid using force when it could endanger civilians. A statement on the NATO Web site said that, while troops are usually rewarded for effectiveness in combat, in a counter-insurgency campaign:

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories


Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)