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Feb 18th, 2009

Afghan Civilian Deaths Hit Record High

More than 2,000 dead in 2008 as Afghanistan war turns increasingly bloody

Image: Injured victim
People rush a victim of a suicide bomb attack targeting an Afghan Army convoy to a hospital in Herat province in October 2008. (Photo credit: Jalil Rezayee / EPA file)

February 17, 2009

KABUL — The number of Afghan civilians killed in armed conflict surged to a record 2,118 people last year as the Afghan war turned increasingly bloody, the U.N. said in a new report Tuesday.

Insurgents were responsible for 55 percent of the deaths, but U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 39 percent, the report said. Of those 829 deaths by the forces, 552 were blamed on airstrikes.

Civilian deaths have been a huge source of friction between the U.S. and President Hamid Karzai, who says such deaths undermine his government and the international mission.

The deaths rose 40 percent last year, and the numbers could grow as the United States plans to shift tens of thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan this year to take on the Taliban and other militants.

Surge could increase deaths

The Pentagon is contemplating sending up to 30,000 additional troops this year, a development that could also increase civilian casualties. …

Despite new battlefield rules meant to reduce civilian casualties, U.S., NATO and Afghan troops killed 31 percent more civilians in 2008 than the year before, the U.N.’s annual report on the protection of civilians said. In 2007, the U.N. said those forces killed 629 civilians.

“As the conflict has intensified, it is taking an increasingly heavy toll on civilians,” the U.N. said.

The report said militants were responsible for 55 percent of civilian deaths last year, or 1,160. About 130 deaths couldn’t be accounted for because of issues like crossfire.

Militants increasingly rely on roadside bombs, car bombs and suicide bombers, attacks that are “frequently undertaken regardless of the impact on civilians,” the report said. …

The report also noted a U.S. mission in August in Azizabad that the U.N. says killed 92 civilians, including 62 children. A U.S. investigation says 33 civilians were killed.

Dangerous for aid workers

The war is increasingly dangerous for aid workers as well. The U.N. said 38 were killed last year — double the number slain in 2007 — and 147 were abducted.

NATO spokesman Maj. Martin O’Donnell said civilian casualty numbers compiled by the NATO-led force and the separate U.S. coalition show their forces killed 237 civilians last year. He said the U.N. numbers could be higher because they include deaths caused by Afghan forces and private security firms. …

A U.S.-based group that advocates for civilians in conflict said in a new report released Tuesday that “the lack of a clear, coordinated strategy to address civilian losses has been a leading source of anger and resentment toward military forces” in Afghanistan.

“The international coalition in Afghanistan is losing public support, one fallen civilian at a time,” CIVIC, or The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, said. …


Read the report:

Losing the People: The Costs and Consequences of Civilian Suffering in Afghanistan (PDF)


U.S., Allies Dismayed by Pakistan Deal in Swat

Image: Islamic militants arrive in the Swat Valley in Pakistan
A convoy of the supporters and representatives of Islamic militants arrive in Pakistan’s volatile Swat valley on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009. (Rashid Iqbal / EPA)

The Associated Press and Reuters via
February 17, 2009

MINGORA, Pakistan — Battle-weary residents welcomed a pro-Taliban cleric dispatched by the government Tuesday to convince militants in the former tourist haven of Swat to stop fighting in exchange for the imposition of Islamic law and suspension of military offensives there.

Sufi Muhammad arrived in a caravan of some 300 vehicles in Swat Valley’s main city of Mingora a day after he struck the truce, which a U.S. defense official called “negative” and critics said represented a surrender to extremists fanning out from nearby strongholds close to the Afghan border.

NATO also expressed dismay. “We would all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have safe haven,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said at a news briefing. “It is certainly reason for concern.” …

Extremists in Swat have beheaded opponents and torched scores of girls schools in recent months, while gunbattles between security forces and militants have killed hundreds. Up to a third of the valley’s 1.5 million people have fled and the scenic area is now believed to be mostly under militant control.

The provincial government in northwest Pakistan announced the deal Monday after it met with Islamists led by Muhammad, who has long demanded that Islamic, or Shariah, law be followed in this conservative corner of Pakistan. As part of the deal Muhammad agreed to travel to Swat and discuss peace with Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Swat Taliban and Muhammad’s son-in-law.

Muhammad was detained in 2002 after he sent thousands to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but Pakistan freed him last year after he agreed to renounce violence. It is unclear how much influence he has over Fazlullah or exactly where they would meet, though a spokesman for the Swat Taliban leader welcomed Muhammad and has spoken positively of the truce.

The Swat Taliban said Sunday they would observe an initial 10-day cease-fire in a show of good faith. …

Some 2,000 militants are believed to operate in the valley, and, in defiance of the presence of some 10,000 paramilitary and army troops, they have already set up their own courts, meting out punishments in line with an exceptionally harsh brand of Islamic law. …


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Feb. 17, 2009, as reported by Reuters.

TIKRIT – Major-General Salahuddin Rasheed, commander of an Iraqi military division, was lightly wounded when a roadside bomb struck his convoy just south of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, said Mohammed Anwar, a police captain in Tikrit. Five of the officer’s bodyguards were also wounded.

BAQUBA – Two successive roadside bombs killed two civilians and wounded another 10, including six policemen, in central Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said. The first bomb targeted a roadside food stand where police were eating. The second exploded as fellow police rushed to the scene.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb wounded a member of a U.S.-backed neighborhood patrol in Baghdad’s northern district of Adhamiya, police said.

MOSUL – Gunmen killed one person on Monday in a drive-by shooting in western Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

3 Responses to “Afghan Deaths at All-Time High”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » ‘Bizarre’ Bachmann ‘No Friend’ Says:

    […] Afghan Deaths at All-Time High […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties Says:

    […] Afghan Deaths at All-Time High […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Afghan Civilian Deaths Reach New Record High Says:

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

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