When the record 2009 civilian death toll began to emerge, NATO was quick to brag that they had actually killed fewer civilians than the Taliban. This appears to be the case still, though UN reports suggested the difference wasn’t nearly as dramatic as NATO initially claimed. There is one thing the Taliban can’t compete with NATO on, however, and that’s the killing of children.
According to a report released today by the United Nations, some 346 Afghan children were killed in the fighting in 2009, around 15 percent of the overall civilian toll. A significant majority of these children were killed by NATO.
The report broke down 131 children killed in NATO air strikes alone, 22 others killed in nighttime raids, and several others killed in other incidents. The Taliban were responsible for 128 total childrens’ deaths, seven of them as suicide bombers.
The numbers provide a stark reminder of the enormous NATO toll inflicted on children, particularly when one considers that the Taliban deliberately attacked numerous schools and still didn’t manage to kill as many.
It also adds additional questions to the validity of the previous “civilian death” totals. When the Taliban kills adults, they are assumed to be civilians, yet when NATO forces have killed adults there is a burden of proof on local officials to establish that they weren’t militants, and in many cases they are written off as “suspects.” As NATO killed more children, if they really killed fewer civilians overall that would mean they are disproportionately endangering children in their operations, compared to the insurgency’s.