UN: Civilian Deaths Soar in Afghanistan

US Air Strikes, Taliban Bombings Responsible for Most Killings

As the eight-year long Afghanistan War continues to escalate, civilians are increasingly bearing the brunt of the attacks from both sides. A United Nations report today says that at least 1,013 civilians were killed in the first half of 2009, a 24% increase from the same period in 2008.

The Taliban and its affiliates were responsible for somewhat more than half of the deaths, principally as a result of bombings in residential areas. And while the international forces are credited in the report for giving “high priority” to avoid civilian deaths, they were responsible for at least 310.

The bulk of the civilian deaths from the international side have come from air strikes by the United States, including a single series of strikes in the Farah Province in early May which killed 140 civilians. The US sought to blame the Taliban for those deaths as well, but unsuccessfully.

Ultimately the UN urged both sides to make efforts to reduce the number of civilians they kill. The US has been constantly changing its rules of engagement to try to reduce such killings, and earlier this week it was revealed that the Taliban had issued a new booklet ordering forces loyal to the insurgencies to limit their attacks on civilian-heavy targets. So far, however, the attempts by both sides have been fruitless and have been little more than the background noise in between reports of massive civilian deaths in their respective attacks.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.