A new United Nations report states that civilian deaths in the Afghan conflict increased by 15 percent in 2010, to 2,777, making it the deadliest year for civilians in the nearly decade-long occupation by US-led forces.
The annual report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Afghanistan, Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2010 (pdf), notes an ongoing increase of civilian deaths over the past four years. Nearly 9,000 civilians were killed during that period, with civiian deaths increasing each year. g each year.
In a press conference (pdf), UN Secretary-General for Human Rights said:
Civilians are the main victims in over 30 years of armed conflict in Afghanistan. Up to now millions have been killed and there are new victims every day. War has robbed a generation of Afghans of their human rights, stunting social and economic development, shutting off access to education and health care and increasing poverty. As a result life expectancy is 45 years, one of of the lowest in the world.
Of the 2,777 deaths in 2010, 75 percent (2080) were connected to Anti-Government Elements (AGEs), an increase of 28 percent over 2009 killings.
Suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were blamed for 1,141 deaths linked to the Anti-Government Elements.
A recent trend in Afghanistan has been civilian assassinations. In 2010, 462 civilians were assassinated, an alarming increase of more than 105 percent over 2009 figures. Of that number, half of all civilian assassinations occurred in southern Afghanistan. Helmand province experienced a 588 percent increase and Kandahar province saw a 248 percent increase of civilian assassinations at the hands of AGEs.
Pro-government forces, including Afghan national security and international military forces, caused 440 deaths (16 percent), a reduction of 26 percent over 2009 numbers. Of that amount, 171 (39 percent of total numbers of civilian deaths attributed to Pro-Government Forces) deaths were caused by aerial attacks. According to the report, there was a 52 percent decrease in civilian deaths linked to air attacks in 2010 compared to 2009.
In a footnote to the report, UNAMA and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
do not claim that the statistics presented in this report are complete; given limitations in methodology and the operating environment, UNAMA Human Rights and the AIHRC may be under-reporting civilian casualties.
Nine percent of all civilian deaths in 2010 were not linked to any party in the armed conflict.
The UNAMA report notes the civilian deaths are having a “devastating impact” on women and children in Afghanistan. Civilian women deaths increased by six percent and children killings increased by 21 percent over 2009 numbers. The increased numbers resulted from the spreading and intensity of fighting in the country, meaning
more women and children had even less access to essential services such as health care and education.
Of the women and children deaths, 40 percent and 44 percent respectively, were caused by IED explosions and suicide attacks. The numbers are a 31 percent in crease in women’s deaths and a 66 percent increase in child deaths over 2009 figures. Eight children were executed by AGEs.
Total civilian death numbers linked to Pro-Government Forces show 37 percent of female deaths and 29 percent of child deaths are attributed to air strikes, 62 percent and 72 percent decreases, respectively, over 2009 numbers. Eight females and nine children lost their lives at the hands of Pro-Government Forces in search and seizure/night raids conducted throughout the country.
Among a long list of recommendations, the report calls for an immediate stop to the targeting of civilians, prevention of civilian casualties by complying with international humanitarian law, conducting impartial and transparent investigations into all incidents involving civilian casualties, and establishment of a professional, standing government body with power to respond to civilian casualties and authority to work with all concerned parties on investigations and sharing of data.