Afghan 2015 Civilian Casualties Highest on Record, UN Reports

  • U.N. documents more than 11,000 Afghan civilian casualties
  • One in 10 casualties was a woman, one in four a child

Civilian casualties from fighting in Afghanistan last year, the first since most international troops withdrew from the country, reached the highest since records began in 2009, the United Nations reported.

The violence killed 3,545 Afghans and injured 7,457. Casualties rose 4 percent from 2014, according to the Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. There were 21,323 recorded civilian deaths and 37,413 injuries from 2009 through 2015.

“This report records yet another rise in the number of civilians hurt or killed,” Nicholas Haysom, UN’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in the report. “Claims of advances on the battlefield, heard over and over again from parties to the conflict, mean little if parties fail to protect the population they wish to govern.”

The rise in casualties comes after most U.S.-led international forces ended their official combat mission at the start of 2015. Security has deteriorated since groups including Taliban and Islamic State seek to expand control. More than half the injuries or deaths, or 62 percent, were caused by anti-government groups, while one in 10 was a woman and one in four a child, the UN stated. Casualties among women rose 37 percent and among children 14 percent.

“Unprecedented numbers of children were needlessly killed and injured last year,” Danielle Bell, UNAMA Director of Human Rights, said today at a press conference in Kabul. “Other children suffered the loss of parents, and increasingly their mothers, sisters, and female role models.”

The rise in casualties last year was mainly the result of increases in complex and suicide attacks as well as targeted and deliberate killings by anti-government elements, rising ground and aerial operations by pro-government forces and an increase in the number of civilians caught in crossfire, notably in Kunduz province, the UN said.

Pro-government forces, in particular Afghan security forces, continued to cause increasing numbers of civilian casualties in 2015, most likely as a result of a rise in security operations, according to the report. The increase in civilian casualties in 2015 was concentrated in northeastern and central Afghanistan, especially in Kabul. Civilian casualties decreased in all other regions, the UN said.

The most harmful tactic used by anti-government groups were improvised explosive devices, which caused 35 percent of all casualties from such groups, followed by suicide and complex attacks, which caused 27 percent of such casualties. Pro-government forces caused the most harm to civilians in ground engagements, which accounted for 68 percent of casualties from such forces, with aerial operations the second leading cause, accounting for 16 percent of casualties from them.