UN reports rise in Afghan civilian casualties as Trump tries more troops
A record 1,662 civilians were killed and 3,581 injured in Afghanistan mainly because of Taliban attacks during the first six months of this year, according to the latest United Nations figures.
“Extreme civilian harm continued amid a worsening toll of suicide attacks, and a greater impact on women and children,” a report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.
Attacks by antigovernment forces are more sophisticated. Civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks rose by 15 percent this year (attacks including more than one perpetrator and two or more forms of weaponry, including suicide IEDs) killing 259 civilians and injuring 892.
Voicing outrage, UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “The statistics in this report, horrifying though they are, can never fully convey the sheer human suffering of the people of Afghanistan. Each one of these casualty figures reflects a broken family, unimaginable trauma and suffering, and the brutal violation of people’s human rights…The continuing national tragedy of Afghanistan must not be overlooked.”
About 4,000 more American troops may be on their way to a war that anti-government forces are fighting relentlessly and with more skill despite 16 years of American presence.
American officials acknowledge that the US is “not winning” but President Donald Trump seems to have decided to let Defense Secretary Jim Mattis determine troop levels in Afghanistan.
The success of more American soldiers advising Afghan troops is doubtful in a war that has killed more than 26,500 civilians and injured 49,000 in its latest phase since January 2009, according to UN figures.
The UN reports only incidents that have been confirmed after a thorough verification process. This strict documentation process, which requires multiple steps of confirmation in each case, means that the overall figures are probably conservative.
The Taliban are still the most efficient killing machines in Afghanistan. Some 43 per cent of all civilian casualties were attributed to the Taliban, four per cent to Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), and the rest to unidentified attackers.
The toll on women increased by 23 percent with 174 killed and 462 injured, reversing a decline in 2016. Child deaths rose by nine percent to 436 and child casualties by one per cent with 1,141 injuries.
Aerial bombings (by government aircraft) in civilian-populated areas substantially contributed to the increases in women and child casualties.
Anti-government forces caused 40 per cent of all casualties often using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices that killed 596 civilians and injured 1,483.
There was a 12 percent increase in all casualties caused by anti-government forces on the first six months of last year, with 1,141 people killed and 2,348 injured.
Some of those casualties occurred in a single attack in Kabul city on 31 May 2017, when a truck bomb killed at least 92 civilians and injured nearly 500. It was the deadliest incident documented by UNAMA since 2001.
“The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal IED devices by Anti-Government Elements is particularly appalling and must immediately stop,” said UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto.
The UN report urged government forces to stop using weapons including mortars and rockets in civilian populated areas, and to disband pro-government militias and similar groups.
It commended Afghan security forces for “their continued efforts to reduce civilian casualties resulting from ground engagements, which represent the second leading cause of deaths and injuries.”
“The figures demonstrate a 10 per cent reduction in civilian casualties from ground engagements(involving government troops) in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period last year, with 434 confirmed deaths and 1,375 injuries. The decrease is attributed to a reduction in casualties caused by weapons, mostly mortars, used by pro-government forces.”