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“…disturbing upward spiral” – Afghan civilian casualties continue to rise

July 10, 2014

Summary: The UN report that civilian casualties this year have so far risen by 25% compared to 2013 levels

The election crisis appears to have retreated behind closed doors, as least for the next day or three.  I take this to be a tentatively encouraging sign.  After all the damaging inflammatory brinkmanship (eg talks of “parallel governments”), both parties are surely engaged in some slightly more pragmatic conversations now.  Both Abdullah and Ghani are very well aware of the risks of national fragmentation, although their more volatile supporters may not be (or may not care).

But if it is not one thing, its the other.  A bleak report from the UN has emerged, which is highlighting civilian casualties on the increase – their standard mid-year assessment (with some depressingly standard news):

UNAMA logoThe Guardian, 9th July: The number killed or injured in the first six months of the year rose by a quarter from 2013 levels to nearly 5,000 people, the bloodiest total since the UN began keeping records in 2009. Women and children are particularly badly affected.

It was also the first time that ground fighting has proved more dangerous for civilians than the often indiscriminate homemade bombs that have become a key Taliban weapon, a worrying sign that the conflict may only get more bloody as Nato forces head home.

This comes at the same time as a report from western Afghanistan of six Halo Trust deminers appparently shot dead – presumably by insurgents.

Map, herat provinceReuters – The Taliban shot and killed six people working for a demining company in western Afghanistan, police said on Thursday, a day after the United Nations said the number of civilian casualties in the country jumped by a quarter in the first half of 2014.

“The Taliban killed six de-miners from the Halo Trust landmine clearance organization while they were on an operation in Kohsan district of Herat. They abducted three people,” said Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial police chief.

The insurgents (Taliban, Hezb-e Islami and the Haqqani “network”) still, according to the UN, take the blame for 75% of casualties although this is hotly disputed by the Taiban.  The UN, as usual, calls for more efforts to be undertaken to avoid such casualties, yet no solution, as usual, presents itself.  Routine noises from both.  This attack on deminers – people generally seen to be doing something constructive and neutral for the benefit of the country – is still relatively rare.   It might be because they were uncovering IEDs being used by the Taliban in this instance, or perhaps because they did not secure “permission” from a local insurgent group.  As ever, with information sources contracting, it will be difficult to extract with confidence the real reasons behind this attack.

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