Battles between the Taliban and government forces were responsible for the most Afghan civilian casualties last year, the war’s deadliest year, surpassing roadside bombs as the leading killer for the first time, the UN said yesterday.
A total of 3,699 Afghan civilians were killed and 6,849 wounded in the war last year, as fighting intensified in tandem with the sharp drawdown of US and allied foreign troops who formally ended their combat role in December after 13 years.
The 22 percent rise in civilian deaths and injuries — the highest total since the UN began keeping records in 2009 — came despite US generals’ assessment that the newly trained Afghan army and police are winning the war.
Assassinations by the Taliban and their allies made up 11 percent of the overall toll, and insurgent suicide attacks accounted for 15 percent. Explosives left on battlefields caused 4 percent of casualties and the rest were classified as “other.”
“Mortars, IEDs [improvised explosive devices], gunfire and other explosives destroyed human life, stole limbs and ruined lives at unprecedented levels,” UN special representative in Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom said.
“Rising civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 attests to a failure to fulfil commitments to protect Afghan civilians from harm,” Haysom said.
“Parties to the conflict should understand the impact of their actions and take responsibility for them, uphold the values they claim to defend, and make protecting civilians their first priority,” he said.
Ground battles killed 1,092 civilians and accounted for 34 percent of civilian deaths and injuries, compared with 28 percent caused by IEDs.
The UN recorded 511 civilian deaths in December alone as the Taliban, who were ousted from power by a US-led coalition in 2001, launched waves of attacks to coincide with the official end of the NATO-led combat mission.
The report attributed 72 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries last year to the Taliban and their allies, who seek to re-establish radical Muslim rule.
Government forces were responsible for 14 percent of casualties, international forces’ air strikes accounted for 2 percent and the fault could not be determined in 10 percent of cases.
The Taliban have in the past strenuously denied being responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths, calling the UN biased.
Afghanistan’s national army and police have also suffered record losses last year, with nearly 5,000 killed.
The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also underlined the dire social and economic consequences of civilian losses on Afghan society, with the deaths or injuries of men often leaving their wives as the sole breadwinners of their households, forcing them to marry off their daughters or take children out of school to work.
“For Afghan women and children, the anguish of losing a husband and father in the conflict is often only the beginning of their suffering and hardship,” UNAMA director of human rights Georgette Gagnon said.
In its recommendations, UNAMA urged the Taliban to cease its use of IEDs, while asking government forces to stop using mortars and rockets in densely populated areas.
It also demanded Kabul disband government militias and hold accountable those members of armed groups who carry out rights abuses.
Since the UN began tracking civilian casualties in 2009, 17,774 civilian deaths and 29,971 injuries have been recorded.
Additional reporting by AFP
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