The number of Afghan civilian combat-related deaths has gone down by nearly 40 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same time frame last year, NATO officials said Wednesday.

Officials said the number included deaths caused by both NATO and Taliban forces.

The reduction in civilian deaths was "at least in part" a result of efforts by Western forces to reduce the number of civilian casualties.

Over the last year, Western forces have come under increased criticism by Afghan politicians and people for the deaths, which complicate support for the government.

Civilian casualties in the country reached record levels last year, and NATO military officials have ordered several measures to reduce the number of deaths.

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