Civilians are increasingly the targets of Taliban violence in Afghanistan ahead of the pullout of U.S.-led NATO forces this year, while human rights group Amnesty International has slammed the U.S. military for failing to investigate civilian deaths resulting from NATO operations.
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan rose by 24 percent in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2013, and more women and children have been killed so far this year, according to a recent report issued by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“More efforts are needed to protect civilians from the harms of conflict and to ensure accountability for those deliberately and indiscriminately killing them,” said UNAMA Director of Human Rights Georgette Gagnon in a statement released in July.
Rafiullah Stanikzai, information officer for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, says the July 15 terrorist attack in the Paktika province, which killed dozens of people, including women and children, is another example of the upsurge in civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
“If we look at the past few months, all the places that were targeted by the insurgents had no military targets, only civilians,” said Stanikzai.
As the date of the withdrawal from Afghanistan of U.S.-led NATO forces approaches, the Taliban have increased their attacks.
Kate Clark, country director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, says the withdrawal of NATO and U.S. forces has made the insurgents more confident; they fear Afghan forces less, especially since they cannot attack from the air. Particularly intense violence was witnessed during this year’s presidential elections and even in the month of Ramadan, when the fighting normally drops off.
“You might hope a movement like the Taliban, which says it’s fighting a Jihad against the foreign occupation, when the foreign soldiers leave, would be less active. But it seems the opposite is the case. Actually, they have increased their attacks this year,” she added.
In addition to terrorist attacks, civilians continue to be killed in U.S.-led NATO military operations, and an August 11 report from Amnesty International accuses the U.S. military of failing to investigate civilian deaths.
At least 1,100 civilians have lost their lives during the past five years as a result of NATO military operations, according to the report.
A victim’s brother, who didn’t state his name in the report, told Amnesty International he never saw his brother again after he was taken by the international forces.
“My brother’s name was Nawab. In 2011, the U.S. Special Forces took him out of our home. He didn’t have a gun or any other weapons on him. He had only his clothes on. After five months, we found a part of his shirt. We never saw his body,” he said.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led mission to train Afghan security forces, said in a statement that the number of civilian casualties ISAF is responsible for has decreased by 77 percent over the last year.
“Unfortunately, anti-government elements, primarily the Taliban, exhibit a continual lack of regard for human life, causing more than 90 percent of all civilian casualties so far this year,” the statement adds.