Afghan War Civilian Casualties Jump 23%, United Nations Reports

Civilian casualties from Afghanistan’s conflict with Taliban guerrillas jumped by almost a quarter in the first half of this year, according to the United Nations, underscoring the challenges facing local forces now leading security operations.

Violence killed 1,319 civilians and wounded 2,533 up to the end of June, representing a 23 percent increase in overall casualties from the same period in 2012, a report prepared by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said today. More than half were caused by the Taliban’s use of improvised explosive devices, it said. In the first six months of last year, 1,158 civilians died and 1,976 were injured.

“The growing loss of life and injuries to Afghan women and children in 2013 is particularly disturbing,” said Georgette Gagnon, director of UNAMA’s Human Rights Unit. “Deaths and injuries to women and children increased by 38 percent in the first half of 2013 reflecting a grim reality of the conflict today in Afghanistan.”

As U.S.-led combat troops leave the country by the end of next year, security is likely to further deteriorate, said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based political and security analyst, in a phone interview. “Afghans may face a major disaster next year,” he said.

The report attributed 74 percent of casualties to insurgents, 12 percent to clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters and nine percent to the actions of Afghan forces. The remaining 5 percent were unattributed. The UN said 146 civilians were killed and 216 wounded by Afghan and NATO troops while conducting operations.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said in an e-mailed statement that protecting civilians is a “cornerstone” of its mission.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed rejected the report in a phone interview. He said it was “completely untrue and biased,” adding that the majority of civilian deaths were due to NATO aerial bombing and ground operations.

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