UN: Civilian deaths in Afghanistan hit new record high

UN: Civilian deaths in Afghanistan hit new record high
© Getty Images

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.”

ADVERTISEMENT
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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”