Afghan war claims record civilian casualties in first half of year

Afghan troops fire rockets at Taliban positions during the battle to clear militants from Kunduz city in October 2015. At least 12 Afghan soldiers were killed after being drugged at a checkpoint near the capital of northern Kunduz province overnight, an official said Tuesday, in what appeared to be an insider attack.



KABUL, Afghanistan — The war in Afghanistan caused more civilian casualties in the first six month of this year than during the same period in any of the past six years, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report on Monday.

In the first six months of this year, 5,166 civilians were injured or killed in the conflict, an increase of 4 percent over the same period a year ago, UNAMA found. Of that total, the number of injured rose by 6 percent, to 3,565, and the number killed fell by 1 percent, to 1,601.

The biannual report was released two days after the deadliest attack in Kabul since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. In that incident on Saturday, at least 80 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. That attack, which is not included in the report, was claimed by the Islamic State group.

More civilian casualties — 11,002 — were recorded by UNAMA in 2015 than in any other year since the mission began systematically documenting them in 2009.

Anti-government forces, such as the Taliban, were found responsible for 60 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries during the first six months of the year, an 11 percent decrease from the same period in 2015. Casualties by pro-government forces rose by 47 percent, accounting for nearly a quarter of all civilian casualties recorded. International military forces were blamed for 1 percent of civilian casualties.

“The majority of civilian casualties caused by Pro-Government Forces continued to result from the use of indirect and explosive weapons such as artillery, mortars, rockets, and grenades during ground engagements,” the report said.

UNAMA expressed particular concern about a 110 percent rise in civilian casualties from airstrikes, “primarily due to an increase in aerial operations carried out by Afghan security forces.”

UNAMA called on the Afghan government to stop using mortars, rockets, grenades, other indirect weapons, and aerial attacks in civilian-populated areas — and to develop and implement clear tactical directives, rules of engagement and other procedures for use of explosive weapons and armed aircraft.

Twitter: @PhillipWellman