July 12th, 2010
01:56 PM ET

Report: Afghan civilian deaths up

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - Nearly six Afghan civilians a day were killed and eight wounded in "conflict-related incidents" through the first half of 2010, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor watchdog group said in a report Monday.

In total, 1,074 civilians were killed and more than 1,500 injured in armed violence, the group said. The totals represent a 1.3 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

More than 60 percent of the deaths, or 661 civilians, were attributed to "insurgent groups who showed little or no respect to the safety and protection of non-combatants," the report said. Improvised explosive devices killed 282 civilians, making it by far the deadliest "war activity." Suicide attacks were the next-deadliest, killing 127 civilians in the first six months of 2010.

Civilians killed by U.S. and NATO forces "reduced considerably" to 210 during the period because of restrictions imposed on the use of airstrikes, according to the report. Deaths in airstrikes dropped by more than 50 percent to 94, the group said. Other measures initiated by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, were also seen as helpful in reducing civilian casualties.

But "indiscriminate and allegedly deliberate shooting by US/NATO soldiers on civilian people and cars - the so-called 'escalation of force incidents' - resulted in 30 unwanted deaths and dozens of injuries," the report said. Dozens of civilians were also shot dead during raids, intrusions and other counterinsurgency measures by troops.

Meanwhile, 108 civilians were killed by the pro-government Afghan army, police and militia, the group said, and blamed Afghan forces for "excessive use of military power ... Local gunmen and militias hired by the government and U.S. military operated in a murky legal environment and committed crimes in a virtual state of impunity."

But the report offers a bleak assessment of the Afghan war, saying that in terms of insecurity in the nation, 2010 "has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001."

"The world's biggest and most deadly war machineries have failed to rid Afghanistan of subversive elements and allow Afghans to breathe in a sense of peace," the group said. "The failure has damaged US/NATO's credibility among Afghans and has contributed to (the) Taliban's propaganda that they are at the point of defeating a world superpower ... It will be a miracle to win the war against the insurgents and restore a viable peace in Afghanistan with the existing Afghan leadership and government."

An increase in U.S. and NATO forces, the report said, has been attributed as "the last push before exit," which emboldens insurgents.

There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. military to the report. At his confirmation hearing last month, Gen. David Petraeus, who replaced McChrystal, told U.S. senators the July 2011 withdrawal date for troops "will mark the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits and turns out the lights."

Petraeus also repeated a pledge to review strict rules of engagement designed to minimize civilian casualties. The rules have been criticized by some observers as increasing the level of risk to U.S. soldiers.

I am "keenly aware of concerns by some of our troops on the ground about the application of our rules of engagement and the tactical directive," Petraeus said. "They should know that I will look very hard at this issue."

Saying the number of civilians killed, wounded and affected by improvised explosive devices is "alarming" the group called on all parties involved - insurgents, the Afghan government and U.S. and NATO forces - "to stop, or at least reduce and control, their productions and indiscriminate use."

Conflict-related instability also affects civilian communities by disrupting or blocking services such as health, education and humanitarian and development assistance. "As conflict intensifies, the government and its foreign supporters must enhance activities to meet the needs of conflict-affected communities," the organization said.

Petraeus said last month that "recent months in Afghanistan have seen tough fighting and tough casualties." But "this was expected," he asserted. "The going inevitably gets tougher before it gets easier when a counterinsurgency operation tries to reverse insurgent momentum."

"My sense is that the tough fighting will continue," he warned. "Indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months. As we take away the enemy's safe havens and reduce the enemy's freedom of action, the insurgents will fight back."

Post by:
Filed under: Civilian deaths
soundoff (No Responses)

Comments are closed.