Two days ago, Afghan forces conducted airstrikes in the Northern city of Kunduz, targetting Taliban leaders at a religious school. In what turned into a harrowing display of human monstrosity, at least 59 people meeting at a compound in the Dashte Archi district, were killed. More than 150 were also wounded. While the attack was aimed at Taliban militants, the brunt of the casualties were children, who were attending a ceremony at the madrassah.

So far, two conflicting accounts are being reported. The Taliban contend that the attack was misplaced and that no militant was killed. However, Afghan officials claim that they, in fact, bombed a Taliban training center and that no civilians were killed.

“Air capacity was used and bombed (the location), 30-40 people were killed including nine of their commanders, Qari Baryal and Saikh Abdul Aziz who were trained in Pakistan to threat Afghan people were killed as well,” said defense ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish of the attack in Dasht-i Archi district of Kunduz province.

This account was widely disregarded by people at the site. It is also being condemned all over social media with the world condemning the senseless attack on innocent civilians.

Without going into the governments inconsistent narrative and insistence that it killed Taliban militants only, let’s ask our selves this-

How long will labeling children as ‘collateral damage’ continue?

In a way, the War on Terror seeks to bring to justice Taliban militants who have mercilessly massacred innocent civilians in the past and plan to do so in the future. But who will bring to justice perpetrators of state-led crimes that result in such a costly collateral damage? The Kunduz massacre is certainly not the first instance of children becoming the collateral damage in the war between power-hungry adults. Nor is it an occurrence specific to Afghanistan alone.

One need not go further than the APS attack in Peshawar. No one could make sense of why children came in the line of fire then. Just as the international community stands at a loss for words to grapple with innocent lives lost in the Kunduz massacre today.

An Afghan boy receives treatment at a hospital in Kunduz on April 3, 2018, a day after an airstrike hit a school in a Taliban stronghold.
Photo credit: BASHIR KHAN SAFI/AFP/Getty Images

A disturbing pattern has emerged amidst all the lives lost in the War on Terror.

Whether it is Kunduz or Peshawar; a state-sponsored attack or a Taliban sanctioned one, there is a dangerous game of numbers being played. The question has now unfortunately become of who is killing more people. Is it the Taliban? Or is the Afghan forces themselves? In a recent report of deaths in Afghanistan, for instance, Shah Hussain Murtazawi, a spokesperson for the Afghan president, contended that more people are killed in Taliban attacks. Essentially, this means that it is simply a game of whose actions result in more deaths. Such a narrative that crunches numbers on both sides is found in mainstream journalism since time immemorial. And while it is important to know figures to assess the magnitude of the problem, it is also important to keep a communal understanding of the crimes in mind.

Whether it is an Afghan child or a Pakistani one, it is a loss that should be condemned equally. Social media activists come into play here. They highlight the perversity of the humanitarian problem as a whole. They highlight the individuality of the loss where a particular family suffers. Let’s check numbers and be more critical of political policies that seemingly legitimize and normalize this costly collateral damage. But also, let’s together join hands in recognizing that this is not just Afghanistan’s problem. Regional cooperation on humanitarian grounds that is not politically motivated is not rallied for enough.

It is time we make it more mainstream and stand in solidarity with our neighbors, who know firsthand just like us what it feels like to be caught in a war that is nothing but harmful for citizens in each country.

Feature Image Credits: Jesse Mechanic/Huffington Post

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