Civilian deaths in Afghanistan triple this summer: US report

Updated 04 Nov 2019

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Civilian deaths in Afghanistan more than tripled during this quarter compared with the same period last year, says an official US report. — AP/File
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan more than tripled during this quarter compared with the same period last year, says an official US report. — AP/File

WASHINGTON: Civilian deaths in Afghanistan more than tripled during this quarter compared with the same period last year, says an official US report.

Most of these deaths happened in Taliban attacks but the US-backed Afghan official forces also had a significant share in these casualties, says the report compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

The SIGAR report notes that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) blames anti-government elements for this increase in overall civilian casualties from Jan 1 through Sept 30. Anti-government forces, including the Taliban, were responsible for 5,117 civilian casualties during this period, which is 62 per cent of the total. There was a notable increase in casualties attributed to the Taliban as opposed to other groups.

UNAMA attributed 3,823 civilian casualties — 46 per cent of the total — to the Taliban in the first nine months of 2019, an increase of 31 per cent from the same period in 2018.

However, “comparing just this reporting period to the same period in 2018, civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban more than tripled,” the report adds.

The significant increase in civilian casualties this quarter was attributed to suicide and IED attacks by anti-government elements, primarily the Taliban. During the months of July, August, and September, UNAMA documented an alarming 72 per cent increase in civilian casualties caused by IEDs compared to the same period in 2018.

SIGAR, an official watchdog that monitors the Afghan war for the US Congress, notes that the Resolute Support (RS) mission also reported a significant increase in civilian casualties this summer compared to last summer. The Resolute Support (RS) mission is the official name of the Nato command in Afghanistan.

UNAMA reported a total 4,313 of civilian casualties from July through September, representing a 42 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2018.

The Nato command reported a 39 per cent increase in civilian casualties from June–September 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.

Both UNAMA and RS said the increase in civilian casualties was due to a high number of terrorist and insurgent attacks prior to the presidential elections that included the use of improvised explosive devices. Operations by all the parties to the conflict this quarter also led to high combat casualties, they added.

According to RS, from June 1 through August 31, 2019, Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) total casualties increased by approximately 5 per cent when compared to the same period last year.

Additionally, seven American service members were killed in action in Afghanistan from July 16 to October 16, bringing the 2019 total to 17 killed and 124 wounded in action, the highest annual number of US combat casualties in Afghanistan over the last five years.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2019