Women and children bear brunt of war in Afghanistan, says UN

The UN said children paid a particularly heavy toll as struggling Afghan forces faced a violent militant surge in 2015. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

The UN said children paid a particularly heavy toll as struggling Afghan forces faced a violent militant surge in 2015. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

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Civilian injuries in Afghanistan’s long war with the Taliban rose last year, with women and children again bearing the brunt of the violence, a United Nations report has revealed.

A total of 3,545 civilians were killed in 2015 as a result of the war, the UN report said, with another 7,457 wounded.

The truth is the figures in themselves are awful – over 11,000 Afghans died or were injured last year as a result of this conflict

Nicholas Haysom

The figures mark a 4 per cent drop in civilian deaths, but a 9 per cent rise in civilian injuries, compared with 2014.

The UN’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said 2015 had the “highest number of total civilian casualties recorded by UNAMA since 2009”.

It also said that 10 per cent of civilian casualties were women, up 37 per cent from the year before. A quarter of those injured were children, up 14 per cent.

UNAMA head Nicholas Haysom said: “The most important finding in the report is that 11,002 Afghans – civilians, non-combatants – have died or been injured in 2015; this figure surpasses by 4 per cent the same figure for 2014.

“The truth is the figures in themselves are awful – over 11,000 Afghans died or were injured last year as a result of this conflict.”

The report found that most of the dead and injured were caught in crossfire.

The annual report, titled Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, is based on on-site investigations where possible.

It attributed 62 per cent of all civilian casualties to anti-government elements, which includes the Taliban.

Another 17 per cent were blamed on pro-government forces and 2 per cent on international military forces.

The US-Nato combat mission ended in 2014, with troops reduced to around 13,000. While they officially have a “train, advice, assist” mandate, they regularly conduct air strikes to back up Afghan forces, and are empowered for “force protection”, which can see them engage in self-defensive combat.

The UNAMA report highlighted large-scale attacks in the capital, Kabul, particularly two suicide attacks on 7 August that it said caused 355 civilian casualties, including 43 dead and 312 wounded. “This was the highest number of civilians killed and injured in one day since UNAMA began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009.”

The Taliban’s assault on the northern city of Kunduz, on 28 September, also caused significant civilian casualties, it said, with 493 civilian deaths and 1,392 injured during weeks of fighting after the insurgents took control.

The report added that improvised explosive devices caused 713 deaths and wounded 1,655 people. “While this represents a 20 per cent decrease it is still the second leading cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan,” it said.

However, Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said the UNAMA report did not comprehensively cover the whole country, concentrating instead “high-conflict areas in 12 provinces”.

He said the Afghan government’s own data showed attacks in more than 24 of the country’s 34 provinces which were not included in the UNAMA report.

He added that unattributed civilian casualties – which UNAMA puts at 17 per cent – should mostly be blamed on the Taliban.

“UNAMA’s decision to not attribute such a large number of civilian deaths misrepresents reality and could help the Taliban and other terrorist groups avoid accountability and escape justice,” he said in a statement.

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