MS Risk Blog

Civilians Killed/Wounded in Afghanistan Rises to Highest Record Since 2009

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The United Nations reported that the number of civilians killed or wounded in Afghanistan last year was the highest recorded since 2009, with children paying a particularly heavy price.

In its annual report on Afghan civilians in armed conflict, the UN disclosed that there were 11,002 civilian casualties in 2015, including 3,545 deaths. This is a four percent rise over the previous high in 2014. The report stated that fighting and attacks in populated areas and major cities were described as the main causes of civilian deaths in 2015, underscoring a push by Taliban militants into urban centres “with ah high likelihood of causing civilian harm.” The UN began compiling the annular report in 2009. Including Taliban-claimed attacks, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan assigned responsibility for 62 percent of total civilian casualties in 2015 to anti-government elements. However the report also noted that a 28 percent year-on-year surge in the number of causalities caused by pro-government forces, including the Afghan army and international troops. The report stated that seventeen percent of all casualties in 2015 were caused by such forces. It was not possible to say which side caused the remaining 21 percent of casualties. One in every four causalities in 2015 was a child, with the report documenting a 14 percent increase in child casualties over the year. While fighting and improvised explosive devices were the top two killers of children, unexploded ordnance picked up and played with by curious and unsuspecting youngers also claimed a heavy toll, killing 113 children – an average of two a week – an injuring 252 more in 2015. Women also paid a heavy price, with a 37 percent surge in female casualties. According to the report, one in every ten causalities recorded was a woman. The document also highlighted an increase in women being targeted for alleged moral crimes, calling the executions and lashings a “disturbing trend,” and adding that the UN plans to release a separate report on such incidents soon. Chillingly, the report documented a doubling of civilian causalities due to the deliberate targeting by militants of judges, prosecutors and juridical institutions. There were 188 such cases last year, of which 46 involved fatalities. The Taliban claimed 95 percent of such targeted attacks. While ground engagements were the largest cause of civilian causalities, improvised explosive devices came second, with the report adding that the use of such weaponry violated international law and could constitute war crimes. The report also criticized Afghan forces in particular for their reliance on explosives in populated areas.   The UN’s special representative for Afghanistan, Nicholay Haysom, has disclosed that “the harm done to civilians is totally unacceptable…We call on those inflicting this pain on the people of Afghanistan to take concrete action to protect civilians and put a stop to the killing and maiming.”

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Haysom stated that the statistics in the report do not “reflect the real horror,” adding that “the real cost…is measured in the maimed bodies of children, the communities who have to live with loss, the grief of colleagues and relatives, the families who make do without a breadwinner, the parents who grieved the lost children, the children who grieved the lost parents.” On 1 January 2015, US and other international troops moved from a combat to a training, advisory and assistance role in Afghanistan, effectively leaving Afghan forces to take the lead in fighting the resurgent militants as they targeted towns and cities.

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