14 July 2010

Civilian deaths up as insurgency gains strength, according to Afghan human rights group report

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first half of 2010 are at their highest level since the United States invaded the country almost nine years ago and ousted the Taliban government, according to an independent human rights right group based in Kabul, the nation’s capital. The report contradicts elements of recent optimistic statements from U.S. military and political personnel that their counterinsurgency efforts are turning the tide against the Taliban and its allies.

The mid-year report from Afghan Rights Monitor (ARM) stated that “about 1,074 civilian people were killed and over 1,500 were injured in armed violence and security incidents from 1 January to 30 June 2010.” The civilian death total represents a “slight increase” over the same period last year when 1,059 deaths were recorded, according to the report.

Sixty-one percent of the deaths were attributed to the insurgents, the report said. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killed more than 280 persons, followed by suicide attacks in which 127 non-combatants were killed. Twenty percent of the civilian deaths, 94 in number, were attributed to U.S. and NATO forces, which represented a reduction of more than 50 percent from the same period last year. The report attributed this decline to the decreased use of aerial strikes, one of the counterinsurgency strategies initiated by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces.

There is little evidence to indicate that the insurgency is weakening, according to ARM. “Little or no justification has been offered as to why a defeated Taliban is gaining strength, popularity and ability to threaten the future of Afghanistan almost nine years after their internationally-celebrated demise… The world’s biggest and most deadly war machineries have failed to rid Afghanistan of subversive elements and allow Afghans to breathe in a sense of peace. The failure has damaged US/NATO’s credibility among Afghans and has contributed to Taliban’s propaganda that they are at the point of defeating a world superpower.”

The report was also critical of the government of Pres. Hamid Karzai, which has exhibited “bad governance and inept leadership.”

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