The 21st Century Phenomenon


All armies in the Western Democracies are looking for the impossible method to fight against terror and urban guerilla, assimilated and hiding within civilian population, to protect its own soldiers the best they can and yet to avoid any damage to the uninvolved civilian society. It is very difficult to minimize even more what is called ‘collateral damage’ when referring to civilian casualties. Non democratic countries do not bother themselves seriously with the issue and accept civilian casualties as an outcome of military operations as we witnessed recently in Sri Lanka in the war against the Tamil Tigers and the CIVIL WAR in Pakistan against the Tehrik-e-Taleban and alike (see – PAKISTAN REPORT).  

Just two days ago, on Tuesday 06/23/2009 night, an American drone fired few missiles into a funeral in South Waziristan, Pakistan, probably in an attempt to kill Baitullah Mehsud. Over 80 were killed in the strike but Baitullah Mehsud himself escaped unharmed (see – S.Waz 06.23.09 ). It is almost certain that many of the people killed in the attack were uninvolved, but giving the bloodshed of hundreds Baitullah Mehsud inflicted directly on the Pakistani society and what laid ahead should Baitullah Mehsud continue his terror campaign the dilemma is well understood.   

In a military report released in USA, on Saturday 06/20/2009, army said a failure by US forces to follow their own rules was the “likely” cause of civilian deaths in Afghan airstrikes, on 05/05/2009, in the Western province of Farah, Afghanistan. The Afghan government has said 140 civilians were killed in the strikes while the report accepts that at least 26 civilians died, but acknowledges that the real figure could be much higher (see – Farah 05.05.09).

The US report defends the Farah operation, saying the use of force “was an appropriate means to destroy that enemy threat”. “However, the inability to discern the presence of civilians and avoid and/or minimize accompanying collateral damage resulted in the unintended consequence of civilian casualties,” the report says.

Both NATO-ISAF and USA have insisted that avoiding civilian casualties is their priority in all battles.

Since the methods and tactics of terror and guerilla are constantly changing, they will continue to be mixed, assimilated and hiding within the uninvolved civilian society, the war zone will always be a tricky kingdom of uncertainty manipulated all the time by all sides, it does not seems that there is a real realistic solution in the conventional warfare, based on firepower and maneuverability, to the basic problem of collateral damage.  


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