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Afghan and U.S. Forces Blamed for Killing More Civilians This Year Than Taliban Have


KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan security forces and their American-led international allies have killed more civilians so far this year than the Taliban have, the United Nations said in a report on Tuesday, once again raising alarm that ordinary Afghans are bearing the brunt of an increasingly deadly 18-year war.

In the first six months of the year, the conflict killed nearly 1,400 civilians and wounded about 2,400 more. Afghan forces and their allies caused 52 percent of the civilian deaths compared with 39 percent attributable to militants — mostly the Taliban, but also the Islamic State.

The higher civilian death toll caused by Afghan and American forces comes from their greater reliance on airstrikes, which are particularly deadly for civilians. The United Nations said airstrikes resulted in 363 civilian deaths and 156 civilian injuries.

“While the number of injured decreased, the number of civilians killed more than doubled in comparison to the first six months of 2018, highlighting the lethal character of this tactic,” the United Nations report said, referring to airstrikes.

Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the United States military, rejected the “methods and findings” of the United Nations report.

“We assess and investigate all credible allegations of noncombatant casualties in this complex environment, whereas others intentionally target public areas, use civilians as human shields and attempt to hide the truth through lies and propaganda,” Colonel Leggett said.

The Afghan government, in its response to the report, highlighted the casualties caused by the Taliban and then listed the measures its forces take to prevent civilian casualties.

The United Nations report comes as both sides try to increase their battlefield leverage amid continuing peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar, between the United States and the Taliban.

The Afghan government has pointed at deadly Taliban attacks in recent months as a sign that the insurgents are not genuinely seeking peace.

While the United Nations report showed that both sides are harming civilians, it found that overall civilian casualties had dropped by 27 percent compared to last year.

Civilian casualties from ground engagements, which cause the highest number of civilian casualties by pro-government forces, saw a 16 percent decline.

The reduction in civilian casualties caused by militants was largely because of a drop in the number of roadside bombs and other improvised explosives, the report said.

The United Nations report said 83 percent of casualties from airstrikes were attributed to “international military forces,” essentially pointing the finger at the United States military, which is the only member of the international coalition in Afghanistan that carries out airstrikes. The Afghan Air Force was responsible for about 10 percent.

Afghan forces have largely fended off the Taliban’s advances this year, but with a heavy reliance on American air power.

Fourteen American soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far this year.


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