On the cusp of 2015, the people of Afghanistan pass another grim milestone: this calendar year saw the greatest number of civilians killed and wounded on record.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the devastation faced by Afghan civilians is the worst it has been since the global body began making reports in 2009. Civilian casualties overall are up 19 percent from 2013, rising to 33 percent among children.
By November, 3,188 civilians had been killed and 6,429 wounded, according to UNAMA records, bringing the total number to 9,617—a number that has since climbed even higher.
A majority of these killings and woundings are a result of "ground engagements between parties to the conflict, improvised explosive devices, and suicide and complex attacks," according to UNAMA.
The UN's data flies in the face of recent claims by Pentagon and U.S. government officials that more than 13 years of U.S.-led war in Afghanistan are, in the words of President Barack Obama, coming to a "responsible conclusion."
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In recent statements, Obama claimed that "our courageous military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan—along with our NATO allies and coalition partners—have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country's history."
Amid public ceremonies marking the supposed end of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. has, in fact, locked in at least another decade of military presence in the country, including up to 10,800 U.S. troops into next year, and continued combat through 2015.
Critics charge that the past 13 years of war show that continued occupation will only worsen the human toll, which includes social upheaval, mass displacement, poverty, and starvation.
"In the past thirteen years, the U.S. and its allies have wasted tens of billions of Dollars, and turned this country into the center of global surveillance and mafia gangs; and left it poor, corrupt, insecure, hungry, and crippled with tribal, linguistic, and sectarian divisions," declared the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan in a statement released earlier this year.
"How is it possible that the U.S., that has a history filled with treachery to nations and whose claws are still dripping with the blood of the poor people of world, will bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan?"