The latest UN report puts the death toll for Afghan civilians across the nation in 2010 to 2,777, the largest since the war began in 2001 and a 15% increase over the toll from 2009. The vast majority of those killed were random victims of the fighting between NATO and the Taliban.
But deliberate targetings of civilians seen as supporters of NATO is also dramatically on the rise, as is the tactic of kidnapping civilians to be held for random. The UN said it has contacted the Taliban to advise them on ways to get the toll down.
Perhaps the most surprising number, however, was just how much NATO’s civilians killings were down in 2010, a 26 percent decline by the UN’s count. This reflects the lack of the high kill count air strikes seen in 2009, and suggests that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s efforts to bring the civilian toll down were working even better than anyone knew.
But of course Gen. McChrystal is gone now, and his replacement, Gen. David Petraeus, has put a renewed emphasis on air strikes, even in heavily populated areas. This has resulted in a growing number of high profile civilian killings by NATO, particularly in air strikes, and growing public anger. If the trend continues as it has through the past two months, it seems assured that the 2011 NATO toll will dwarf its 2010 toll, and may well top the 2009 toll as well.