Afghanistan: Nearly 1,600 Child Casualties in Airstrikes Over Past Five Years

Increase in civilian casualties was a result of the Trump administration loosening the rules of engagement for US forces in Afghanistan

Almost 1,600 children were killed or wounded in airstrikes in Afghanistan over the past five years, according to a report from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV).

The report analyses data released earlier this year by the UN and found that between 2016 and 2020, there were 3,977 civilian casualties from airstrikes in Afghanistan, 1,598 of which were children. Out of that number, 785 were killed, and 813 were wounded.

About 50 percent of the civilian casualties were caused by the US and its NATO coalition partners. The rest were at the hands of the Afghan Air Force, which is entirely propped up by the US.

From 2018 to 2019, the US dropped bombs on Afghanistan at a higher rate than it did during the height of the surge in 2011. In 2019, the US Air Force was responsible for more than two-thirds of child casualties from all airstrikes.

The Trump administration loosened the rules of engagement in Afghanistan, which led to the uptick in airstrikes. Last year, a report from Brown University’s Costs of War Project found that civilian casualties in airstrikes rose 330 percent from 2016 to 2019 due to the relaxed rules of engagement.

Since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in February 2020, the US has reduced its airstrikes in the country, although the US has occasionally bombed the Taliban since. In March 2020, US Central Command stopped publishing reports on Afghanistan airstrikes, so there’s no way to know for sure at what rate the US bombed the country that year.

While US bombings decreased in 2020, the Afghan Air Force significantly escalated its airstrikes. The UN found that civilian casualties resulting from airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force during the first six months of 2020 had tripled, compared to the same time period in 2019.

The US is currently withdrawing combat troops from Afghanistan with the goal of getting them out by September 2020. But US financial support for the Afghan military will remain. US military leaders are mulling options on how they will provide maintenance and logistical support after the pullout.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.