A UN report claims that 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.
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan rejected the claim, stating the methods and findings of the UN are “not credible,” CGTN.com reported.
The latest information from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan shows pro-government forces, including the US, killed 717 civilians compared to 531 by insurgents in the first half of 2019.
The report pointed out that air strikes, mostly carried out by American warplanes, killed 363 people, including 89 children.
Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan, disputed UNAMA’s data and said the US military investigates all civilian casualty allegations in what is a “complex environment.”
“USFOR-A rejects UNAMA’s methods and findings. Sources with limited information and conflicted motives are not always credible,” Leggett said in a statement, insisting the US follows the highest standards of accuracy and accountability and always work to avoid harm to non-combatants.
However, Leggett could not provide any estimates of civilian casualties and did not elaborate on any ongoing military investigations.
The UN figure revealed the total civilian casualties in the first half of this year with 1,366 died and another 2,446 injured. Ground engagements remained the leading cause of civilian casualties overall, accounting for one-third of the total, followed by improvised explosive bombings and aerial operations, the CGTN report said.
However, the UN report says total civilian casualties are down, with a 27% drop in casualties compared to the same period last year and the lowest total for the first half of a year since 2012.
While the UN welcomed the decrease and acknowledged that parties made efforts to reduce civilian casualties, the UN thought they are not enough and will continue “to regard the level of harm done to civilians as shocking and unacceptable,” UNAMA said in a statement.
Afghan civilians have experienced many forms of suffering, at the hands of many actors since 2001, though the US officially ended its combat mission in 2014, about 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan as part of the US-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces and to carry out counter-terrorism operations.
Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said civilians were paying a “terrible price” as a result of air strikes and night raids that appeared meant to pressure the Taliban in negotiations underway in Qatar.
“Although US military officers in Kabul repeatedly claim to take civilian casualties seriously, they do not conduct adequate investigations to determine accurate numbers or understand targeting errors,” she told the BBC, adding that Afghan government investigations were “even worse.”
“The usual claim — that the Taliban hide among civilians — is not an excuse for killing and injuring civilians in such numbers, and in any case is no excuse for what in some cases may amount to war crimes.”
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani’s top running mate, former national intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, narrowly escaped death on Sunday when attackers besieged his office in Kabul.
The attack, which began with a suicide car bombing, turned into a six-hour gun battle between security forces and heavily armed attackers, who killed 20 people and injured 50.
As its presidential election campaign kicked off this week, Afghanistan is especially jittery amid fears of more violence.