KABUL: The United Nations said on Wednesday that civilian casualties in Afghanistan had dramatically increased by 23 percent in the first six months of the year and blamed the insurgency for the vast majority of the dead and wounded.
In its mid-year report on civilian casualties, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan found that homemade bombs and mines usually placed on or near roads, were the leading cause of deaths and wounds.
But it also noted a worrying new increase in those casualties caused by ground engagements between Afghan security forces and insurgents seeking to regain lost territory — especially in their former heartlands in the east and south of the country.
Insurgents have stepped up the tempo of their attacks in areas where foreign troops have withdrawn, or are in the process of drawing down after handing over the lead for security to Afghan security forces in mid-June. The majority of foreign forces are to leave this year and completely pull out at the end of 2014. Plans by the United States and its allies to retain some troops after that date have not yet been set, pending the signature of a delayed security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States.
Georgette Gagnon, the head of human rights for UNAMA, said the organization documented 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 wounded from January to June.
“You are getting increases in contested areas,” Gagnon said of the ground engagements, which caused 25 percent of all civilian casualties after roadside bombs. “The stepped-up transition of security responsibilities from international forces to Afghan forces and the closure of international forces’ military bases was met with increased attacks.”
She also said there was a sharp rise in the number of attacks against civilians working for the government and judiciary, and against civilian administration buildings such as courts. “This armed conflict has brought increased harm and suffering in the first six months of the year,” Gagnon said of the war, which has lasted nearly 12 years.
UNAMA attributed 74 percent of the civilian casualties to the insurgency, nine percent to the Afghan security forces and US-led international military coalition, and 12 percent to ground engagements between pro-government forces and insurgents. It said the remainder was either unattributed or caused by old explosives.