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Civilian casualties mount as troops pull out of Afghanistan

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 10th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan ratcheted up by 14 percent as fighting between the Afghan government and insurgents intensified. According to a report by the United Nations, the gradual withdrawal of foreign troops has left Afghan government forces vulnerable insurgent attacks.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The new trend in 2013 of increased civilian casualties from ground engagements, including the alarming increase in women and children casualties, reflected the changing dynamics of the conflict over the year," the United Nations said.

The year 2013 was by far the worst for women and children since 2009. The numbers of those killed or injured has increased by at least a third since 2012.

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Even worse is the fact that the responsibility for these atrocities cannot be attributed to either side. "This 'fog of war' dynamic reflects the changed nature of the conflict in Afghanistan in 2013 which was increasingly being waged in civilian communities and populated areas," the United Nations said.

By far the largest killer attributed to civilian deaths are improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which are bomb, detonated by insurgents in public areas such as markets, roads and government buildings. Bombs accounted for about one-third of the total civilian toll, with 2,959 deaths and 5,656 injured.

The United Nations has attributed about three-quarters of the toll to the Taliban. "Statements on protecting civilians by the Taliban leadership are not nearly enough to end the killing and injuring of innocent Afghan civilians," U.N. Special Representative JŠn Kubi in a statement says. "What is needed is for the Taliban to stop deliberately attacking civilians and using IEDS indiscriminately."

Most depressingly, international forces in Afghanistan, who are trying to aid the local populace in becoming self-sufficient against the Taliban are responsible for three percent of all the fatalities. In particular, air strikes causing civilian deaths or injuries are a major source of tension between President Hamid Karzai and the United States.

There were at least 54 aerial operations that resulted in civilian casualties last year. While this was a noticeable 10 percent drop from the number of such cases in 2012, women and children accounted for nearly half of casualties.

Nineteen of the 54 instances involved unmanned aerial vehicles. The number of civilian victims from these so-called drone strikes more than tripled from 2012, the United Nations said.

In addition, a security force known as the Afghan Local Police, or ALP, set up in 2010 to operate in areas has perpetrated several incidents.

Throughout 2013, the U.N. mission in Afghanistan "documented incidents where ALP carried out serious human rights violations with impunity which were often enabled by provincial or national level power-brokers," the report said.

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