The United Nations said on Tuesday the number of civilians killed or wounded in Afghanistan has risen sharply, up by 31 percent during the first half of this year. In a new report, it laid most of the blame for the surge in violence on members of the Taliban and other insurgents, saying they are responsible for 76 percent of civilians killed or wounded in the increasingly bloody conflict.
In the first six month of this year, the U.N. said war-related incidents have killed nearly 1,300 Afghans and wounded 2,000 others. Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, U.N. representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, called the 31 percent rise in civilian casualties unfortunate. "We are very concerned about the future because the human cost of this conflict is being paid too heavily by civilian Afghans," he said. "And that's why this report is a wake-up call." Mistura also urged the warring parties to prevent such casualties. "That alone justifies for us to actually make a special appeal and request to them to realize that if they want to be part of a future Afghanistan, they cannot do so over the bodies of so many Afghan civilians," said Mistura.
The U.N. envoy said NATO and Afghan forces have caused 12 percent of the civilian casualties this year, a significant drop compared to last year. The decline is attributed to a tactical directive issued by the former commander of U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who ordered that air strikes be limited. Most civilian deaths and injuries caused by NATO and Afghan forces involving the aerial bombardment of suspected targets and night raids by international forces.
Children have been hit hard, too, according to the U.N. report. It said deaths and injuries among children resulting from insurgent attacks have gone up 55 percent this year, citing the use of more sophisticated improvised explosive devices across Afghanistan. It also found a 95 percent increase in assassinations, addind that such high rates of casualties are likely to scare ordinary Afghans from cooperating in peace-building efforts by the Afghan government.