Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan Hit New Record High

July 18th, 2017 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & Rebecca Kheel / The Hill & Sune Engel Rasmussen / The Guardian – 2017-07-18 01:20:27

Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan Hit New Record High

UN: War Getting Increasingly Dangerous for Women and Children
Jason Ditz /

(July 17, 2017) – The civilian death toll in Afghanistan, some 16 years into the US-led invasion and occupation, continues to rise precipitously, with the most recent figures out of the United Nations showing 1,662 civilians killed in the first half of 2017, the highest civilian toll of the entire war.

Officials had expressed hope civilian deaths had more or less leveled off, when the first half of 2016, the previous record, gave way to a roughly identical figure in the second half. Increased airstrikes and some major suicide bombings drove another increase, however.

The civilian toll was particularly grave for women and children, with casualties among women up 23% and 9% among children. This was exemplified by an early February US airstrike in Sangn District, which killed 26 civilians.

UN officials did however say that overall, the US had killed fewer civilians this year than in the same period of 2016, likely reflective of the change in leadership of the Afghan War, as air raids usually drop temporarily when a new general assumes control of the conflict.

UN: Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan
Hit New Record High

Rebecca Kheel / The Hill

(July 17, 2017) — Worsening suicide attacks contributed to another grim, record-setting period for civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the United Nations said Monday.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, 1,662 civilians were killed, an increase of 2 percent over the then-record-high number of civilians killed during same period last year.

“The human cost of this terrible conflict in Afghanistan — loss of life, destruction and immense suffering — is far too high,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement. “The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) latest midyear report comes as the Pentagon deliberates on a new strategy for the United States in the country, including whether to send thousands more US troops to break what top generals have described as a stalemate against the Taliban.

In addition to the civilian deaths, 3,581 people were injured, according to UNAMA. That represents a 1 percent drop from last year.

Many of the casualties included in the report were from a May truck bombing in Kabul that killed at least 92 civilians and injured nearly 500. It was the single deadliest incident documented by UNAMA since 2001, according to the report.

In the first six months of the year, more civilian deaths and injuries from suicide and complex attacks were documented by UNAMA than during any previous six-month period since 2009, the report says.

Such attacks killed 259 people and injured 892, a 15 percent increase compared to the first six months of 2016.

In all, about 40 percent of the casualties in the report were from suicide bombs, pressure-plate devices and other improvised explosive devices.

More than two-thirds of the civilian casualties were caused by anti-government forces. Of that, the Taliban accounted for 43 percent, while the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) Afghan branch accounted for 5 percent.

In total, anti-government forces killed 1,141 civilians and injured 2,348, a 12 percent increase from last year.

Afghan security forces, meanwhile, were commended in the report for reducing the number of civilian casualties they caused. Afghan forces killed 434 civilians and injured 1,375, a 10 percent decrease from last year.

Other pro-government forces, such as the United States, accounted for 327 civilian deaths and 618 injuries, a 21 percent decrease from last year.

“The statistics in this report, horrifying though they are, can never fully convey the sheer human suffering of the people of Afghanistan,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. “Each one of these casualty figures reflects a broken family, unimaginable trauma and suffering, and the brutal violation of people’s human rights.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis has promised to have a new strategy for Afghanistan ready this month. That strategy is expected to include sending a few thousand more US troops to the country.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon last Friday, Mattis refused to “give credence” to reports about specific numbers of troops being considered for deployment.

He said the strategy is still being worked on, particularly the State Department’s contributions.

“Welcome to strategy,” Mattis said when asked about the delay. “Seriously, this is hard, and there’s a reason we’ve gotten into some wars in our nation’s history and didn’t know how to end them. This is hard work, and anyone who says otherwise is someone who has not had to either deal with it, or deal with the consequences of the decisions they made.”

Afghanistan: Civilian Deaths at
Record High in 16-year War, Says UN

Sune Engel Rasmussen / The Guardian

KABUL (July 17, 2017) — The number of civilian deaths in the Afghan war has reached a record high, continuing an almost unbroken trend of nearly a decade of rising casualties.

The number of deaths of women and children grew especially fast, primarily due to the Taliban’s use of homemade bombs, which caused 40% of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2017, according to UN figures released on Monday.

Child casualties increased by 9% to 436, compared with the same period last year, and 1,141 children were wounded. Female deaths rose by 23%, with 174 women killed and 462 injured.

US and Afghan airstrikes also contributed to the surge in civilian victims, with a 43% increase in casualties from the air, the figures showed.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN’s Afghanistan mission, said: “The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan – loss of life, destruction and immense suffering – is far too high.

“The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices [IEDs] is particularly appalling and must immediately stop.”

The UN attributes about two-thirds of casualties to the Taliban and other anti-government groups such as Islamic State.

The worst attack of the war on civilians occurred in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on 31 May, when a truck bomb killed at least 150 people, amounting to nearly one-quarter of the 596 civilian deaths from IEDs in 2017.

In the countryside, bombs carpeting fields or left in abandoned houses have contributed to a steady, slow-grinding toll, with 1,483 civilians injured and many suffering amputations.

Kamel Danesh, 19, a student and avid cricketer, was helping a friend clear a house in Helmand a month ago when he stepped on a mine left by the Taliban.

“I didn’t hear the blast. I was just knocked over. My mouth filled with dust. I tried to stand up but couldn’t,” Danesh said. “I looked down and my leg was cut off at the bone. My hand was cut off.”

A rickshaw transported him from the suburbs of the provincial capital to Emergency, an Italian-run trauma centre, where medics saved his life.

“It was so painful. I prayed to God to take me,” Danesh said. The provincial cricket association named the Ramadan tournament after him, but he will never play again.

In June, the US conducted 389 aerial attacks in Afghanistan, putting this year on a par with 2013, when there were nearly 50,000 US soldiers in the country.

Of the 232 civilian casualties from 48 aerial operations, 114 were caused by Afghans and 85 by Americans. In one especially deadly operation, the US killed 26 civilians in airstrikes in Sangin district in Helmand.

With peace talks elusive, the war is expected to intensify and prolong the violence that has engulfed Afghanistan for four decades.

Danesh lost his leg to a conflict that began when he was two. As a child, his father and grandfather used to tell him war stories, but “now it is the young people who are sacrificing”, he said.

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