The British forces have been linked with the deaths of about 300 innocent Afghan civilians and the UK paid just $3,266 on average as compensation for each of those killings.
London-based charity Action on Armed Violence obtained the official data from the UK’s Ministry of Defence compensation logs after submitting a series of freedom of information requests. The AOAV examined the logs as the western forces withdrew from Afghanistan last month after the Taliban seized the capital city of Kabul.
The data showed that the British forces were involved in the killing of 86 children and over 200 adult civilians during the Afghanistan war. The official record showed that the youngest civilian victim was three years old.
One of the most inhumane incidents listed in the official logs is where the British army mistakenly “shot and killed” four children belonging to a family and paid about $5,809 as compensation.
In some cases, the compensatory payments were only less than a few hundred dollars. A total of $143 was paid to a family following a confirmed fatality and damage to a property in the Helmand province in February 2008. Elsewhere, the British forces valued the life of a 10-year-old boy they killed at $805 in December 2009.
AOAV said that an estimated 20,390 civilians were killed or injured by international and Afghan forces during the 20-year conflict. The charity said that a total of 457 British soldiers were slain during the war.
The charity said that many of the incidents recorded in the logs are described only briefly. The author of the AOAV’s research Murray Jones said, “These files do not make for easy reading. The banality of language means hundreds of tragic deaths, including dozens of children, read more like an inventory.”
The research shows that the UK military paid a total of $944,046 in the compensation for 289 killings between 2006 and 2013. Britain ended its combat operations in the country in 2013.
The Ministry of Defence also made payments over killings involving the Special Air Service (SAS), which has faced numerous accusations of unlawful executions of civilians during the occupation. In 2012, the British military paid $4,986 to the family of three Afghan farmers, three weeks after they were allegedly killed in cold blood.
The official logs describe the compensation money as an “assistance payment to be made to calm local atmopherics [sic]”.
There are incidents recorded in the log where compensatory payments for property damage were greater than those recorded for the loss of life. Around 2009-10, the Ministry approved the compensation of $1,198 for a damaged crane and $908 for the death of six donkeys who were killed “when they wandered on to the rifle range”.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said that the amount of compensation paid in each case was determined by a mixture of legal principles as well as local customs and practices.
The spokesperson said, “Every civilian death is a tragedy and the UK always seeks to minimise the risk of civilian casualties through our rigorous targeting processes, but that risk can never be removed entirely.”
The compensatory data is one of the few ways to establish the number of civilians who may have been killed by British forces in Afghanistan. Especially when in response to other freedom of information requests, the Ministry of Defence said that it does not hold any figures centrally.
Earlier last week, the commander of US Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie admitted that a drone attack had killed 10 civilians including seven children, contrary to the earlier claims that the strike had neutralized militants from Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). General McKenzie conceded that a “terrible mistake” was made and he offered his “profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed”.