Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

F-15E Strike Eagle

An F-15E Strike Eagle from Bagram Air Base deploys flares over Afghanistan Nov. 12, 2008. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

'Unprecedented': UN Finds US-Backed Forces Killed More Afghan Civilians Than Taliban and ISIS Did So Far in 2019

"A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day."

Jessica Corbett

In an "unprecedented" revelation that highlights the consequences of the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, the United Nations announced Wednesday that U.S.-backed forces killed more Afghan civilians than the Taliban and other armed anti-government groups did in the first three months of this year.

A new quarterly report (pdf) from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) shows that "pro-government forces," including both Afghan and international troops, killed 305 civilians from January to the end of March.

That compared with 227 civilians killed by "anti-government elements" such as the Taliban and ISIS. There were 49 unattributable deaths, which includes those caught in crossfire.

"A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day," Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement Wednesday.

While encouraging all parties to "do more to safeguard civilians," Yamamoto specifically urged anti-government elements—which injured more civilians in early 2019 than pro-government forces did—to stop targeting civilians, particularly with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Yamamoto also called on pro-government forces "to take immediate measures to mitigate the rising death toll and suffering caused by airstrikes and search operations." Such tactics drove an overall increase in civilian casualties (deaths and injuries) from those forces, according to the report.

"In Afghanistan, massive airstrikes, drone operations, and brutal night raids are killing more civilians in these days than any insurgent group does," Emran Feroz, a Austro-Afghan independent journalist and founder of Drone Memorial, tweeted Wednesday, citing the report. "This is not a surprise for those who are researching for years."

The UNAMA report details the "increased harm to civilians from aerial and search operations" this year.

Pro-government forces carried out 43 aerial operations in the first quarter of 2019 that resulted in 228 civilian casualties (145 deaths, 83 injured), with international military forces responsible for 39 of these operations resulting in 219 civilian casualties (140 deaths, 79 injured). Women and children comprised half of the civilian casualties from all aerial operations...

Pro-government forces caused 102 civilian casualties (72 deaths and 30 injured) across 32 search operations, which is an 85 percent increase in civilian casualties as compared to the first quarter of 2018. The majority—80 percent—of the search operations resulting in civilian casualties were attributed to either the National Directorate of Security Special Forces or the Khost Protection Force, both of which are supported by international military forces. UNAMA reiterates its concern that these forces appear to act with impunity, outside of the governmental chain of command.

The report reiterates UNAMA's demands for greater transparency and accountability for search operations and for the Afghan government "to either disband the Khost Protection Force or formally incorporate members into its armed forces."

In response to the report, U.S. forces spokesman in Afghanistan Colonel Dave Butler told Al Jazeera: "We reserve the right of self defense of our forces as well as the Afghan Security Forces. The best way to end the suffering of non-combatants is to end the fighting through an agreed-upon reduction in violence on all sides."

"It's not just my family, there are dozens of families just like mine who have been lost in bombings. The people have no power... We are the ones who are dying."
—Masih Rahman, Afghan civilian

Both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban, which controls nearly half the country, recently have urged their respective fighters to take care to avoid civilian casualties, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

After reaching a record high last year, Afghan civilian casualties declined overall in the first quarter of 2019, which the report notes was possibly influenced by harsh winter conditions in the country. The report says "it is unclear whether the decrease in civilian casualties was influenced by any measures taken by parties to the conflict to better protect civilians, or by the ongoing talks between parties to the conflict."

In recent months, the Taliban has engaged in talks with United States but refused to negotiate directly with Ghani's government. But as long the war continues, civilians remain at risk.

Per AP:

In September, Masih Rahman's family of 12—his wife, four daughters, three sons and four nephews—were killed when a bomb flattened their home in the Taliban-controlled Mullah Hafiz village in central Maidan Wardak province.

"It's not just my family, there are dozens of families just like mine who have been lost in bombings," Rahman told The Associated Press this week. "The people have no power... We are the ones who are dying."

Rahman, who was working in Iran at the time of the airstrike, blamed both pro-government forces and the Taliban, saying a Taliban-run prison was located just 400 meters (yards) from his home.

He has since sought redress from the U.N. and has also taken his case to Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, which put out its own report on civilian casualties on Tuesday.

The commission found that from March 2018 to March 2019, more than 11,000 Afghan civilians were killed or injured, and over the past decade, the conflict has killed at least 75,316 civilians.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Research Reveals How PR Firms Have Spent Decades Fueling Climate Misinformation

"The best time to stop working for fossil fuel clients was 20 years ago, when we had much more time to stop the climate emergency. The second best time is now."

Jessica Corbett ·


Progressives Decry US Gun Control Failures After 'Truly Sickening' Michigan School Shooting

"A 15-year-old shooter may have picked up the weapon, but Congress—through its inaction on gun violence—may as well have handed it to him."

Brett Wilkins ·


New Climate Study Predicting More Rain Than Snow in the Arctic 'Rings Alarm Bells'

"There are huge ramifications of these changes," said the lead researcher, "all of which have implications on wildlife populations and human livelihoods."

Jessica Corbett ·


Durbin Introduces Amendment to End 'Legacy of Cruelty' by Closing Guantánamo

"It's time at long last to face reality and... close the detention facility at Guantánamo. Let's put this dark chapter behind us once and for all."

Brett Wilkins ·


With SCOTUS Set to Hear Abortion Case, Anti-Choice Groups Prepare to Enact 'Post-Roe Strategy'

Right-wing groups are lobbying lawmakers to pass state-level restrictions and ban sales of abortion pills, should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo