The number of civilians killed and injured in the Afghanistan conflict during the first six months of 2017 persisted at the same record high levels as last year, the United Nations mid-year report said.
According to figures from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), a total of 1,662 civilian deaths were confirmed between 1 January and 30 June – an increase of two per cent on the same period last year.
“The human cost of this terrible conflict in Afghanistan – loss of life, destruction and immense suffering – is far too high,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA. “The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop.”
The reports highlights that 40 per cent of all civilian casualties during the six-month period were killed or injured by anti-government forces using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices, which were responsible for the deaths of 596 civilians and injured 1,483.
These figures include civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks -involving more than one perpetrator and two or more forms of weaponry, including suicide IEDs- which killed 259 civilians and injured 892, a 15 per cent increase on comparable figures for the first six months of 2016.
The report makes a series of recommendations, including calling on anti-government forces to stop targeting civilians and to enforce directives from the Taliban leadership calling for an end to such attacks.
Government forces are urged not to use weapons including mortars and rockets which could have a devastating impact in civilian populated areas, and to disband illegal militias and similar groups. The report also recommends ongoing support from international military forces to support and train the Afghan national army.
The report commends Afghan security forces for their continued efforts to reduce civilian casualties resulting from ground engagements, which represent the second leading cause of deaths and injuries. The figures demonstrate a 10 per cent reduction in civilian casualties from ground engagements the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period last year, with 434 confirmed deaths and 1,375 injuries. The decrease is attributed to a reduction in casualties caused by indirect and/or explosive weapons, mostly mortars, used by pro-government forces.
UNAMA attributed a total of 327 civilian deaths and 618 injuries to pro-government forces, a 21 per cent decrease compared with the same period last year, although UNAMA noted a 43 per cent rise in civilian casualties during aerial operations (95 deaths and 137 injuries).
Nineteen per cent of the casualties occurred in the capital, Kabul, as a result of suicide and complex attacks. Civilian casualties increased in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, mainly due to increased attacks by anti-government forces. The highest numbers of casualties occurred in Kabul, Helmand, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Uruzgan, Faryab, Herat, Laghman, Kunduz and Farah provinces.
The UN report includes only incidents which have been confirmed after a thorough verification process. This strict documentation process, which requires multiple steps of confirmation in each case, means that the overall figures are probably conservative.