U.S. airstrikes contributed to a somber milestone in 2018: the highest number of civilians were killed in the war since records began a decade ago.
"The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting. That is why there is all the more need now to use all our efforts to bring about peace."
—Tadamichi Yamamoto, UNAccording to the data released Sunday by the United Nations, there were 3,804 civilian deaths last year, which marks an 11 percent increase compared to 2017.
Among those thousands were 927 children—a figure U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called "particularly shocking." The U.N. also said it was the highest child death toll recorded during a single year. Women and children together represented 38 per cent of all the civilian casualties.
"The report's rigorously researched findings show that the level of harm and suffering inflicted on civilians in Afghanistan is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. secretary-general's Special Representative for Afghanistan. "All parties need to take immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of civilians harmed and lives destroyed."
Revealing the scope of "human misery and tragedy," Yamamoto added that 32,000 civilians were killed over the last decade.
The U.N. attributed the casualties to "anti-government elements" including the Taliban and Daesh (also known as the Islamic State) as well as pro-government forces including the Afghan national security forces and the U.S.-led international military coalition. These pro-government forces are blamed for 24 percent of the total civilian casualties.
Record high number of civilians killed in #Afghanistan conflict in 2018, finds latest UN Report. A clear indicator of intensification of violence: 3,804 civilian deaths, including 927 children. Urgent need to seize opportunities for peace. Read Report - https://t.co/t4IgMgS05l pic.twitter.com/omwPnyzMzq— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) February 24, 2019
Among the grim records in the report:
For the first time since 2009 when it began systematically documenting civilian casualty figures, UNAMA recorded more than 1,000 civilian casualties from aerial operations. 2018 also witnessed more than 500 civilians killed by aerial operations for the first time on record. UNAMA documented 1,015 civilian casualties (536 deaths and 479 injured) from aerial operations. Of these, UNAMA attributed responsibility to international military forces for 632 civilian casualties (393 deaths and 239 injured), to the Afghan Air Force for 304 civilian casualties (118 deaths and 186 injured), and the remaining casualties to unidentified pro-government forces.
"We are seeing a backwards deadly trend in Afghanistan with a growing neglect of civilian lives in pursuit of military wins. The increased bombing is not expediting a peace process, it is in the most brutal way possible to undermine it while costing tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of civilian lives," said Jan Egeland, the secretary general for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Egeland also noted that strikes by international military forces and the Afghan Air Forces have risen for the fourth year in a row—an increase of 82 percent since 2017.
2018 saw more than 1,000 civilian casualties from air ops for first time in #Afghanistan war. International military responsible 632 civilian casualties in 2018. More information in latest UN Report https://t.co/t4IgMgS05l pic.twitter.com/zXUoT6KPOs— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) February 24, 2019
"The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting. That is why there is all the more need now to use all our efforts to bring about peace," said the U.N's Yamamoto.
NRC's Egeland, for his part, added, "International actors, who on the one hand are talking more of a negotiated end to the fighting continue to drop more and more bombs in Afghanistan—destroying the lives, homes and livelihoods of many Afghan civilians in the process."
"If actors are truly committed to peace they must take the necessary steps to prevent civilians becoming casualties of war."