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Afghan Civilian Deaths in War Hit Record High

Image: An Afghan woman wearing a burqa waits for alms with her child during a snowstorm in Kabul
An Afghan woman wearing a burqa waits for alms with her child during a snowstorm in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. (Photo credit: Ahmad Jamshid / AP)

By Kay Johnson

February 4, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — Last year was the deadliest on record for Afghan civilians with 3,021 killed, a rise of 8 percent from the year before as insurgents ratchet up violence with roadside bombs and suicide attacks, the United Nations said Saturday.

Taliban-affiliated militants were responsible for more than three-quarters of the civilian deaths in 2011, the fifth year in a row in which the death toll went up, the U.N. said. …

The number of civilians killed in suicide attacks jumped dramatically to 450, an 80 percent increase over the previous year as militants set off increasingly powerful bombs in public places.

Insurgent-planted roadside bombs remained the single biggest killer of civilians last year.

The homemade explosives, which can be triggered by a footstep or a vehicle, killed 967 people — nearly a third of the total.

‘Highest price’

The United Nations decried the insurgents for using the indiscriminate weapons, which the report compared to laying anti-personnel land mines among the general population.

“Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed in this war in ever-increasing numbers,” said Jan Kubis, the U.N. Secretary-General’s special representative to Afghanistan. “For much too long, Afghan civilians have paid the highest price of war.” …

“As 2011 unfolded, ordinary Afghan people experienced growing intrusion into and disruption of their daily lives by the armed conflict in their country,” the report said.

Last year was the deadliest year for Afghan civilians recorded by the U.N. since it started keeping a detailed civilian casualties five years ago.

The number of deaths was 8 percent higher than the previous year and roughly double the number from 2007.

Overall, 3,021 civilians died in violence related to the war and 4,507 were wounded. Of the deaths, the UN attributed 77 percent to insurgent attacks and 14 percent to international and Afghan troops. Nine percent of cases were classified as unknown.

Second-deadliest year for coalition troops

The number of civilian deaths caused by insurgents was up 14 percent over 2010, the U.N. said.

“It is extremely worrying to see civilian casualties continuing to rise year after year,’ said Navi Pillay, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Behind these numbers is real suffering and loss for families in Afghanistan.”

Last year was also the second-deadliest year of the decade-long war for international forces in Afghanistan, with at least 544 NATO troops killed. The coalition has been in Afghanistan since the aftermath of the 2001 American-backed intervention to topple the Taliban, which followed the hard-line Islamist regime’s refusal to hand over al-Qaida terrorist chief Osama bin Laden, who sponsored the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

While the total number of civilian deaths caused by international and Afghan forces backing President Hamid Karzai’s government dropped by 4 percent from the previous year, the number of civilians killed by air strikes targeting insurgents rose to 187 in 2011, accounting for nearly half the deaths attributed to coalition and Afghan troops.

Intensified assassination campaign

The number of civilians killed during controversial, coalition-led night raids on homes dropped to 63 in 2011, down 22 percent from the previous year, the U.N. said.

Night raids by U.S. and Afghan special operations teams are a source of resentment among many Afghans, though the NATO force says they have led to the death or capture of dozens of Taliban figures. Karzai has demanded an end to night raids. …

Insurgents also intensified an assassination campaign against people associated with the Afghan government. The U.N. report documented 495 targeted killings in 2011, including provincial and district government officials, peace council members and pro-government tribal elders. Assassinations were up 3 percent from the previous year and up 160 percent from 2009.

Among the highest profile assassination victims last year was former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of the high peace council charged with seeking talks with the Taliban. He was killed by a suicide bomber claiming to carry a message from the insurgents.

Full story

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2/9/2012 Update

Pentagon Investigates Colonel Over Critical Report on U.S. Progress in Afghanistan

By Jim Miklaszewski
Chief Pentagon correspondent
Image: Jim Miklasszewski

February 8, 2012

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into an independent report written by an Army lieutenant colonel for possible security violations, military officials said Wednesday.

In an article published Sunday by the Armed Forces Journal titled “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down,” Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who spent a year in Afghanistan delivering equipment to U.S. forces, strongly suggests that military leaders are lying about progress in the war in Afghanistan.

“What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground,” he wrote in the article.

Davis wrote an 86-page report with the same title that he released to members of Congress. Pentagon officials said Davis released the report without informing Army officials.

Davis based his claim on 250 interviews with U.S. troops, Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and several village elders who painted a bleaker picture about the mission.

Although senior military officials acknowledged that ground combat forces would likely have a different view on progress, they strongly denied claims that the military leadership is misleading the American public.

For example, Davis disputes congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and now CIA director, that progress in Afghanistan was “significant though fragile.”

Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparotti, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Afghanistan, conceded Wednesday that the war is far from over and there is a “tough fight ahead,” but he said there has been “significant” and “steady progress” over the past 18 months. …

Full story

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8/1/2013 Update

As U.S. Forces Draw Down, Afghan Casualty Toll Is Up


Afghan war: In this undated photo, displaced Afghans walks near their temporary homes on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Ahmad Jamshid / AP)

By Patrick Quinn

July 31, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s civilian casualty toll has jumped this year as insurgents fight to recapture territory from the departing American-led coalition, a U.N. report showed on Wednesday.

The number of dead rose 14 percent, and wounded 28 percent, compared with January-June last year, UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan, said in its mid-year report.

It blamed the insurgency for 74 percent of the casualties, while the Taliban defended itself by claiming they were mostly legitimate targets because they were working for its enemy, the Western-backed government.

Civilian casualties had dropped following President Barack Obama’s 30,000-troop surge. But UNAMA’s latest report cited an intensifying Taliban campaign to recapture lost ground as the coalition, which is preparing to complete its withdrawal by the end of 2014, hands over security responsibilities to a rebuilt Afghan military and police force.

UNAMA said it counted 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 wounded from January to June, compared with 1,158 deaths and 1,976 wounded in the first six months of 2012..

It said most were caused by homemade bombs and mines on or near roads. Nine percent were attributed to the Afghan security forces and U.S.-led international military coalition, and 12 percent to ground engagements between pro-government forces and insurgents. The rest were either unattributed or caused by old explosive charges.

Many died in ground engagements in the east and south where the U.S. launched its 2009 surge to roll back the insurgents’ significant gains. …

The report found that 207 civilians died and 764 were injured in clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban, a 42 percent increase from the same period last year.

Most foreign forces are to leave this year and there are already fewer than 100,000, 66,000 of them American. …

Another cause cited by UNAMA for the intensified civilian bloodshed is a stepped-Taliban campaign against the Afghan Local Police, equipped and trained by the U.S. as a first line of defense in remote areas. These units live among the population, so civilians are more likely to be caught in the crossfire.

UNAMA also recorded 103 attacks on civilians working for the government, in which 114 died — a 76 percent jump from the first half of last year. …

Full story

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Related reports on this site

Image: An injured boy lies in the hospital
A boy who was injured in a bomb blast lies in hospital in Farah province on Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Bloodshed Persists in Afghanistan (July 2, 2011)

Civilian Carnage in Afghanistan (June 14, 2011)

Record Afghan War Dead (Sept. 6, 2010)

Afghan Civilian Deaths Up 31% (Aug. 13, 2010)

Deadliest Month in Afghanistan (July 5, 2010)

Escalating Afghanistan Violence (Nov. 20, 2009)

Deadliest Month of Afghan War (Aug. 1, 2009)

Afghan Deaths at All-Time High (Feb. 18, 2009)

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