Afghanistan: Protection against everyday violence and civilian casualties of war

Astri Suhrke (CMI), Torunn Wimpelmann (CMI), and Aziz Hakimi (SOAS)

United States Marine Corps,

During the past decade, Afghan civilians have been exposed to increasing risks of ‘everyday violence’ (perpetrated by formal authorities, criminal groups, or powerful local strongmen), as well as the violence of war (in ‘collateral damage’ of military operations or targeted killings).  How have humanitarian actors responded to this? With what effects? Have they adjusted their strategies over time? How important have the protection efforts of humanitarian actors been as compared to non-humanitarian actors? What conclusion can be drawn for protection of civilians in similar conflict situations elsewhere? These broad questions frame the study.

The research has a dual focus:

a) Mechanisms, actors and processes that have sought to promote norms of warfare in Afghanistan after 2005 designed to reduce civilian casualties.  Which actors/mechanisms have been most effective and why? How has the category of ‘civilian’ been defined and contested? What has been the role of humanitarian agencies in this respect? This part of the research will have a macro-level perspective, examining the evolving role of national and international actors after war-related violence increased sharply in the second half of the decade.

b) Mechanisms, actors and processes that have sought to protect civilians against ‘everyday violence’ as well as the violence of war, focusing on a particular province of Afghanistan. Here we shift to a micro-level perspective to examine how principles and strategies of protection are transformed into practices on the ground. Which actors (local, national, international) are most effective and why? Do local civilians have ‘coping strategies’ of actively seeking protection, and if so, how and from whom?

The research team

Astri Suhrke, a senior researcher at CMI, has published widely on questions of the politics and policies of  humanitarian action. Her most recent work on Afghanistan, When More is Less. The International Project in Afghanistan,was published in 2012 (London: Hurst/New York: Columbia University Press).

Torunn Wimpelmann is a researcher at CMI. Her  Ph.D. thesis (SOAS)  is entitled The Price of Protection: Gender,. Violence and Power in Afghanistan and examines shifting definitions of violence against women and government responsibility in Afghanistan.

Aziz Hakimi is a PhD candidate at SOAS, London where his PhD research investigates the trajectories and impact of the Afghan Local Police, a program established to raise local defense forces around Afghanistan.  He also has extensive experience from humanitarian and development work in Afghanistan.