Accelerating a grim trend in the evolving war in Afghanistan, civilian casualties rose sharply in in the first half of this year due to heavier ground combat between government forces and insurgents in populated areas, the United Nations reported Tuesday.
Through the end of June, the U.N. mission in Afghanistan documented 1,564 civilian deaths and 3,289 injured. The total represented a 24% increase over the same period last year and was particularly devastating for children, whose casualties as a result of ground operations more than doubled.
The statistics were a reminder that the hostilities are far from over even as U.S.-led international forces prepare to depart the country by the end of the year. Afghanistan also is mired in a tense standoff over a disputed presidential election that threatens to unleash violence between rival political camps and ethnic groups.
“In 2014 we found that the fight is increasingly taking place in communities, in public places near playgrounds and near the homes of ordinary Afghans,” Georgette Gagnon, the U.N. human rights director in Kabul, said in releasing the twice-annual report.
“More efforts are needed to protect civilians from the conflict and to ensure accountability for those who are deliberately and indiscriminately killing them.”
It was the first time since the U.N. began closely tracking civilian casualties in 2009 that ground combat was the No. 1 killer, resulting in a greater number of casualties from mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. As in the past, the lion’s share of the casualties — 74% — was attributed to anti-government forces.
SOURCE: HASHMAT BAKTASH, SHASHANK BENGALI
The Los Angeles Times