More civilians in Afghanistan were killed by Afghan and international coalition forces than by the Taliban and other militant groups in the first half of 2019, a UN mission to the country said Tuesday.
Conflict in Afghanistan has caused 3,812 civilian casualties – including 1,366 deaths – in the first six months of the year, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report.
38% of casualties in the January-June 2019 period were caused by the Taliban. However, most were attributed to other parties, including the US-led international coalition and pro-Kabul forces.
The report found that of the 1,366 killed, 717 were killed by US-led and pro-Kabul forces – a 31 per cent increase from the corresponding period in 2018. 577 of these deaths were attributed to the international coalition (314) and Afghan national security forces (263), while 88 were attributed to undetermined or multiple pro-government forces and a further 52 to pro-government armed groups.
By comparison, 531 people were killed by the Taliban, ISIS and other militant groups during the same six months. 306 of these deaths were caused by attacks that directly targeted civilians.
The three leading causes of civilian casualties were ground engagements (33%), improvised explosive device attacks (28%) and aerial operations (14%), according to the UN.
An official from NATO, which operates a non-combat operation to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces, told CNN: “We are not complacent on this important issue. Our forces on the ground continue to respect the highest operational standards. We thoroughly investigate every allegation of civilian casualties, and we train the Afghan security forces to ensure that they take utmost caution in order not to harm civilians.
“The best way to end the suffering of civilians is to focus on the political settlement of the conflict and to continue all efforts to reduce violence.”
Although the UN mission noted that they had recorded the lowest total of civilian casualties for the first six months of the year since 2012, the report noted that “the armed conflict continued to inflict significant harm on the civilian population, killing and maiming thousands, displacing families from their homes, and impacting essential services including education and health care.”
Conflict-related violence continued to affect children in Afghanistan – 327 children were killed and 880 injured during the first six months of 2019.
Earlier in July, a joint declaration by participants to the Intra-Afghan Dialogue, held in Doha, called for all parties to reduce civilian casualties to zero.
On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump wants a reduction in American troop levels in Afghanistan before the 2020 election.
In a June visit to Afghanistan’s capital city, Pompeo said that the US had made it clear to the Taliban that they were “prepared to remove our forces,” but had not yet agreed on a timeline.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterised the international military forces referred to by the UN Assistance Mission. This has now been updated to clarify that the forces concerned are those of the US-led international coalition.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.