Friday, November 13, 2009

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: Increase continues through 2009

Over 2,000 civilians were killed due to armed conflict in Afghanistan between January and October 2009. The number of fatalities is continuing to increase according to the latest data released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). These numbers dwarf the casualties experienced by UK and other international forces.

“In the first 10 months of 2009, UNAMA recorded 2,021 civilian deaths, compared with 1,838 for the same period in 2008, and 1,275 in 2007,” Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner on human rights, said in a statement sent to the UN Security Council on 11 November by her deputy, Kyung-wha Kang.

“Civilian casualties continue to mount, with hundreds killed every year by armed anti-government elements, government forces, and international forces carrying out both air strikes and ground assaults,” it said.

August was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians, with 294 reported deaths, UNAMA said. Civilians have increasingly been caught in the cross-fire and their basic human rights such as access to health, education, food and shelter have been violated by the warring parties, the statement said.

The report stated that more civilians have died in attacks by Taliban insurgents during 2009 compared to aerial strikes and military operations by pro-government Afghan and international forces. According to UNAMA, 1,397 were killed by anti-government elements, 465 by pro-government forces and 165 by other actors.

However, this was disputed by the Taliban. A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, rejected UNAMA’s findings and blamed pro-government forces for most of the civilian deaths. In reports on previous time periods UNAMA/AIHRC data has indicated more deaths being due to the pro-government forces. The method of data collection used by UNAMA/AICHR and how impartial the analysis is remains unclear.

While estimates of fatalities are important there appears to be no data available on the total casualties suffered by the Afghan civilian population, although this figure will for certain be substantially higher than the fatality estimate. Likewise, in contrast to data on casualties suffered by international forces, there appear to be no publicly available data on casualties suffered by Afghans fighting for the government or for those fighting against the government or the presence of foreign troops.

[IRIN, UNAMA, Casualty Monitor]