Spreadsheets list prices paid for an Afghan life, a cow and a car

By Karrie Kehoe and Craig Shaw | First published by Thomson Reuters Foundation on Wed, 16 Jul 2014

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The description in a single box of a spreadsheet is brief and to the point: “We shot into a crowd and killed a lady’s son.”

Next to it stands an amount: $1,000.

The entry from October 2007 detailing an incident in Kabul covers one of hundreds of “condolence payments” paid to Afghans by U.S.-led forces for deaths, injuries and property damage, described in leaked military spreadsheets.

The sheets document some $4 billion in spending on a military-backed scheme, the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, intended to win over ordinary Afghans with reconstruction projects that improve local communities and provide jobs.

The bulk of the money goes on transport and building projects, although the sheets include entries as diverse as $91,000 for riot batons and almost $6,000 for scout uniforms. But commanders also use the fund to pay for harm done by U.S. troops or their allies – from deaths in botched air strikes to crops damaged by military vehicles.

Thomson Reuters Foundation has analysed these condolence payments, which offer a rare, detailed line-by-line insight into a key period of the war, as part of a project to explore how nations and organisations try to put a monetary value on life and limb.

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