|What's the price of an Afghan life?
IN Afghanistan, if NATO forces kill a member of your family, it is better in terms of money if he or she comes from Germany or Italy than the United States or Britain.
In the cold calculation of how much to pay for victims of the decade-old war, British forces have doled out as little as US$210, while German forces have paid as much as US$25,000, according to a study by the human rights NGO Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC).
Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces hunting insurgents are a major source of friction between the Afghan government and its Western backers - all the more so after a US soldier gunned down 16 Afghan villagers at the weekend.
"They have to ask themselves the question how much is one's life worth? You can't put a price on it," Rafi Nabi, 33 and unemployed, said in a market in the Afghan capital Kabul.
"If one were to kill an American and offer to compensate their death with money, they wouldn't accept it."
It was unclear if the US intends to pay reparations to the families of 16 people, including children and women, killed by the US staff sergeant in a remote area of the southern province of Kandahar. Eleven victims were said to come from one family.
The US usually pays up to US$2,500 for civilians killed in "lawful" operations such as air strikes, according to an investigation by CIVIC, a rights advocacy group. The study, compiled two years ago, has been regularly updated.
"The shooter clearly violated the laws of war, human rights law and the US military code of justice. In these type of situations, we call for accountability and justice as well as compensation for harm done," Trevor Keck, an investigator with CIVIC, said.
British forces have paid out between US$210 and US$7,000 while German troops provided US$20,000 in cash and a car worth US$5,000 after shooting three people at a checkpoint in 2008, the report said. In 2009, Italy disbursed US$13,500 to the family of a 14-year-old girl who was shot dead, it said.
Based on interviews with NATO and Afghan civilians, CIVIC found that compensation payments plus an apology were key to lowering hostility toward foreign troops in Afghanistan.
There is no standard mechanism for Afghans to report civilian casualties, much less seek compensation, reducing both the hope of redress and any sense that justice is being done. Rules often require even illiterate villagers to decipher which unit came to their home and then go to its main base - sometimes hundreds of kilometers away on unsafe roads. And to complicate matters, most villagers do not readily distinguish between foreign troops from different countries.
With 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, the United States pays up to US$2,500 for civilian deaths and payments above that figure are rare.
Britain has around 9,500 soldiers, mainly in volatile Helmand Province. British forces have paid between US$210 and US$7,000 for deaths.
Germany, with 4,700 troops in Afghanistan, has no set policy for giving assistance to civilians harmed in operations. In August 2008, Germany dished out US$20,000 in cash and a car worth US$5,000 to a family after its troops shot dead three family members at a checkpoint.