UN Report: Unprecedented Number of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan
Bloodiest three-month period in Afghanistan on record
(October 17, 2019) — Escalating attacks by both US forces and the Taliban over the summer have meant a higher toll among Afghan civilians as well. Indeed, the latest UN report covering July to September found it the bloodiest three month period in Afghanistan since they started keeping data in 2009.
Up 42% from the same period in 2018, the report found 174 deaths and 3,139 injuries among civilians. Total casualties in the first nine months of the year are over 8,000, again the highest figure in years.
The UN emphasized the casualties caused by “anti-government elements” but casualties rose in all categories over the last three months, and the rate of US attacks across Afghanistan have been surging in particular over the past few months, with Trump scrapping the peace plan.
The UN report rightly identified a big problem on both sides as being a belief that the war can still be resolved militarily. While they again tried to pin this position on the Taliban primarily, the Taliban did negotiate an entire deal right to the end to be signed, only for the US to back out at the last moment.
Rare Admission of Guilt from US for Killing Afghan Child in Air Strike
(October 18, 2019) — A child has been killed in a US air strike in Afghanistan, the American military confirmed, in a rare admission of responsibility for civilian harm.
The US has, to our knowledge, so far admitted to killing only six civilians in strikes in 2019. The UN claims the number is much higher, with 430 deaths and injuries recorded in the first six months of the year.
In this incident, air support was called in when a joint US-Afghan ground operation came under fire in the Andar district in central Ghazni province on October 6. US forces claim the air strike killed three Taliban fighters and a child, who was standing nearby.
“Minors are not automatically classified as civilians,” a US military spokesperson said. “However in this case the minor was determined to be a non-combatant bystander who was put in harm’s way by Taliban fighters.”
US strikes in Afghanistan are at their highest rate in years, and civilian casualties from those strikes are also rising. In September, a US strike killed scores of farmers working in fields. Less than a week later, a joint US-Afghan raid is believed to have killed dozens of guests attending a wedding party.
The UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also announced last week that they had found credible evidence of up to 76 civilian casualties in US air strikes targeting drug labs in Farah province in May. The US military has denied UNAMA’s findings, claiming no civilians died. There seems to be no indication that they will investigate the allegations.
Even if they did, US probes into allegations of civilian harm often languish for months.
Working with The New York Times’ visual investigations unit, the Bureau uncovered evidence that a US strike had killed 12 members of one family. The US denied responsibility for the strike until our investigation. While the Pentagon now admits the US military carried out the strike, it still has not reached a conclusion on the civilian casualties one year on.
“Civilian casualties caused by the United States in Afghanistan are clearly undercounted,” said Marc Garlasco, former head of civilian protection at UNAMA.
“While the US regularly admitted to civilian casualty incidents when they were part of the International Security Assistance Force, they now rarely confirm an incident of civilian harm they are responsible for,” he added.
Abbie Cheeseman has researched the effects of air strikes in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Afghanistan Suffers Record 4,300 Civilian Casualties in Three Months — UN
KABUL (October 15, 2019) — A record 4,313 civilians were injured or killed in Afghanistan’s war against the Islamist Taliban between July and September, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The tally was up 42 percent from the same period last year — in a war that ebbs and flows with the seasonal weather – and included more than a thousand deaths, according to data from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
That made it the bloodiest period in the world’s longest-running war since UNAMA began collecting like-for-like figures in 2009. It brought the total of casualties for the first nine months of 2019 to over 8,000.
“Civilian casualties at record-high levels clearly show the need for all parties concerned to pay much more attention to protecting the civilian population, including through a review of conduct during combat operations,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, one of the UN’s top officials in Afghanistan.
Taliban insurgents fighting the US-backed Kabul government control more of Afghanistan than at any time since being ousted from power nearly two decades ago.
They have stepped up a campaign of suicide bombings in recent years as Washington tries to pull its forces out.
Around 62 percent of casualties were caused by what UNAMA called “anti-government elements”, though casualties caused by pro-government forces also rose 26 percent.
UNAMA said on Tuesday that 85 civilians had been killed and more than 370 wounded in violence linked to last month’s election.
The two presidential front-runners have both already claimed victory despite the count being delayed.
Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul; writing by Alasdair Pal.
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