Deaths of Afghan civilians in air raids carried out by the United States and its allies “increased dramatically” since 2017 when Washington loosened its criteria and escalated attacks on the Taliban, according to a report released on Monday.
The number of civilians killed annually in US and coalition air attacks soared by 330 percent to some 700 civilians in 2019, said Neta C Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University. More civilians died in 2019 than any other year since the beginning of war in 2001, according to the report.
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The US pulled back on air raids after striking an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020. But the Afghan Armed Forces stepped up their own as they entered talks with the rebels.
While total deaths from air attacks has fallen, attacks are now coming from Kabul’s forces and have accelerated in recent months.
The Afghan Air Force (AAF), Crawford wrote, is now “harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history”.
She said that in the first six months of 2020, 86 Afghan civilians were killed and 103 injured in AAF air raids.
In the three subsequent months, as Afghan-Taliban talks continued in Doha, the toll intensified, with 70 civilians killed and 90 injured.
She urged a negotiated ceasefire while the two sides discuss a deal, to avoid more civilian injuries.
But with the US accelerating the withdrawal of its troops, some worry that the Taliban could take advantage to further pressure Kabul’s forces, sparking reprisals.
“Unless there is a ceasefire, both sides will continue trying to gain a tactical advantage while negotiations are under way. The toll on civilian lives is likely to increase,” Crawford wrote.
According to the UN, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the last decade, when the organisation began compiling the data.