Newspaper article International New York Times

Civilian Casualties Surge amid Afghanistan Fighting

Newspaper article International New York Times

Civilian Casualties Surge amid Afghanistan Fighting

Article excerpt

Casualties rose 24 percent through the first half of the year to their highest levels since 2009, according to the United Nations.

Driven by increased ground combat between insurgents and government forces, civilian casualties in Afghanistan surged 24 percent through the first half of the year to their highest levels since 2009, according to the United Nations, in a grim signal of the way the war here is changing from the same period a year ago.

For the first time since the United Nations began publishing tallies of Afghans killed and wounded by the conflict, ground fighting has emerged as the deadliest facet of the war, instead of improvised explosive devices, which held that dubious distinction in the past. The death toll was especially high for women and children.

The report illustrates how exceptionally bloody the war has become and how the composition of the forces has changed. For the most part, the Americans have stopped fighting. Now, when coalition commanders say that Afghan forces are in the lead in combat across the country, it is more than just a hopeful talking point. Spikes in violence have occurred across Afghanistan, partly because the insurgents no longer have to worry about coalition troops coming to the aid of the Afghan forces.

The numbers, to some degree, bear this out. While insurgents were responsible for double the number of civilians killed compared with the same period in 2009, that figure has halved for pro-government forces -- almost entirely the result of fewer coalition airstrikes.

The report offers a useful snapshot of an increasingly opaque war. With fewer coalition forces around the country to monitor the fighting, the country's defense and interior ministries distribute most data and information about the violence. However, both ministries are notoriously bad about sharing accurate information on police and military casualties. …

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