A record number of Afghan civilians, mostly women children, were killed in 2018, a new UN report said, pinning the sharp increase on US airstrike rules of engagement, relaxed after almost two decades of futile war.
Despite promises from the White House to reduce the number of troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, the 18-years-long American campaign is far from finished and is claiming a record number of civilian lives, a new United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report reveals. In fact, the battle against the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) forces in the country is witnessing a news resurgence on a scale not seen in the last decade.
At least 3,804 civilians died last year in Afghanistan, while another 7,189 were wounded, UNAMA said in its annual report, stressing that 2018 became the deadliest on record ever since the organization began tallying figures, in 2009. While stressing that 63 percent of all civilian casualties were caused by Islamist militants, the annual review also noted a steady increase in civilian casualties, caused by the “relaxation of the rules of engagement for airstrikes” by the US-led forces in 2017.
After documenting an 85 percent spike in child casualties from aerial operations in 2017, the UN report stressed that US-led airstrikes have caused the same number of civilian casualties as those inflicted by government forces on the ground. UNAMA recorded a 61 percent rise in civilian casualties, and documented 1,015 civilian deaths and 479 injuries from 173 aerial operations conducted by the so-called ‘pro-government forces’ last year.
“In 2018, approximately the same number of civilians were killed from airstrikes as in 2014, 2015 and 2016 combined,” the report says. “Women and children continued to comprise almost two-thirds of all civilian casualties from aerial operations, amounting to… 320 deaths and 328 injured.”
The US-led coalition, whose own tally places civilian casualties at only 62 people, defended the use of its aerial tactics, stressing that it is taking “all feasible precautions” to limit the loss of civilian lives.
For the last few months, the US has been calling for direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to try to somewhat stabilize the situation in the country after the apparent failure of the destructive American mission. The US hopes that reconciliation between numerous warring factions and the government could pave the way for a partial US withdrawal.
Russia, meanwhile, has been engaged in a separate diplomatic push aimed at seeking ways to build an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue. Representatives of the Taliban met with numerous Afghan delegates in Moscow earlier this month to discuss the prospects of peace and the removal of all foreign troops from the country. Despite progress made, the government of President Ashraf Ghani refused to attend the talks, placing their trust in US diplomacy to end the conflict they have helped create.
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