Afghanistan becomes more deadly for civilians
KABUL — Afghanistan has grown more deadly this year for women, children, and other residents of the capital, the United Nations mission in the country said Monday, even as the violence is expected to intensify in the coming months with no hope of peace talks any time soon.
A record number of civilians — 1,662 — were killed in the first six months of 2017, a 2 percent increase over the same period last year, the mission reported. An additional 3,581 civilians were wounded.
“The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan — loss of life, destruction, and immense suffering — is far too high,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
He cited the threat posed by homemade bombs or improvised explosive devices, IEDs, used by insurgent groups. “The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate, and illegal IED devices by antigovernment elements is particularly appalling and must immediately stop,” he said.
The leading causes of casualties among women were attacks, including suicide bombings, in highly populated civilian areas like Kabul, the capital. These assaults accounted for almost three-quarters of the 174 women killed and 462 injured in the first half of the year.
As more women have joined the workforce in Afghanistan, they have become more vulnerable to insurgents targeting government workers during rush hours in crowded parts of the capital, the UN report said. Another reason for the increase in women killed or injured in attacks has been the growing intensity of urban assaults.
A huge truck bomb detonated at a crowded traffic circle in Kabul in May was one of the deadliest strikes in the long Afghan war, and a reminder of how the battlefield has extended to the capital.
That attack killed around 80 people, and though many of those killed and injured were commuters, many other casualties were in office buildings close to the blast site. Three women were killed in the bombing and another 52 injured.
Overall, children made up more than one-quarter of the total casualties in the six-month period, and child deaths were up 9 percent compared with the same period last year, the UN said.
“These civilian attacks need to stop,” said David Skinner, the country director for the nongovernmental organization Save the Children. “Not only do they injure and kill innocent people in the most horrific way, but they cause untold distress and trauma, especially for children, often leading to serious psychosocial issues and impacting their longer-term development.”
The report blamed antigovernment forces for 67 percent of the civilian casualties, holding the Taliban responsible for 43 percent, the Islamic State for 5 percent, and unidentified groups for 19 percent. But Afghans also suffer at the hands of government and allied forces, sometimes as they come across their unexploded ordnance.
The report commended government forces for reducing civilian casualties from ground engagements. In the meantime, it said, casualties caused by the insurgents’ use of homemade bombs had only increased. Roughly 40 percent of all civilian casualties — 596 deaths and 1,483 injuries — resulted from the insurgents’ use of such explosives, including suicide bombs, the report said.
The Taliban rejected the report in a statement, calling it one-sided and politically motivated.