Afghan civilians are bearing the brunt of the 13-year-old war in Afghanistan, with casualties rising significantly due to increased ground fighting between the Taliban and government forces, the United Nations said in a new report on Wednesday.
Civilian casualties due to conflict increased by 22 per cent in 2014, compared to the previous year, with 10,548 deaths and injuries, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report said.
Civilian deaths amounted to 3,699, and 6,849 people were injured, said the report – the highest number of civilian casualties recorded in a single year since 2009.
The report found that more civilians were killed or injured due to ground fighting than by homemade bombs or any other tactic.
In previous years, roadside bombs have claimed most casualties.
UNAMA accused “parties to the conflict” of increasingly using “explosive weapons systems such as mortars, rockets and grenades, sometimes indiscriminately,” even in civilian-populated areas.
“The appalling levels of violence in Afghanistan in 2014 should not be repeated in 2015,” said Nicholas Haysom, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“Rising civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 attest to a failure to fulfil commitments to protect Afghan civilians from harm.”
“We need to see concrete steps and a real drop in civilian casualties in 2015,” he said in a statement.
The NATO-led coalition withdrew combat troops in December, but a small number of foreign troops are still engaged in Afghanistan in largely training and advisory roles.
The coalition says it will engage in some counter-terrorism operations, and fight back if troops come under attack directly.
UNAMA said there were “more frequent and larger ground operations” by both the Afghan forces and the Taliban.
The report attributed 72 per cent of the Afghan civilian casualties to the Taliban and other anti-government forces.
In many places, ground fighting occurred in civilian populated areas, resulting frequently in deaths and injuries of civilians, caught in the crossfire, the report said. SAPA