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Afghan Civilian Deaths by Airstrikes Soar

The number of Afghan civilians killed annually in the strikes increased by 330 percent from 2016 to 2019 as the U.S. escalated attacks on the Taliban – 700 civilians killed only in 2019,  according to a U.S.-Based watchdog.

AT News

KABUL: After the U.S. has decided to relax its rules of engagement for airstrikes in Afghanistan, the number of the Afghan civilian casualties increased by 330 percent from 2016 to 2019. Costs of War, a human rights watchdog based in Rhode Island, said in a report that the Afghan war parties escalated violence to gain leverage in the peace negotiations. “The data demonstrates that, compared to the previous 10 years, there was a 95 percent increase in civilians killed by U.S. and allied forces’ airstrikes between 2017 and 2019.”

The number of civilian casualties, according to the report, has been changed in different period.

“When the United States tightens its rules of engagement and restricts air strikes where civilians are at risk, civilian casualties tend to go down,” the report said. “When it loosens those restrictions, civilians are injured and killed in greater numbers. In 2017 the Pentagon relaxed its rules of engagement for airstrikes and escalated the air war in Afghanistan.”

From 2017 to 2019, the report said that the civilians’ casualties were rapidly intensified due to the U.S. and allied forces airstrikes on the Afghan villages. “In 2019 airstrikes, 700 civilians were killed – more civilians than in any other year since the beginning of the war in 2001 and 2002.”

The report said that the casualties were dropped after the US signed a preliminary peace deal in the absence of Afghan government on February 29th in Qatari capital, Doha.

Following the release of the report, the US Forces in Afghanistan in a statement sent to Afghanistan Times, said that it disagreed with “the one-sided analysis presented in Costs of War, which relies on disputed data and ignores civilian casualties caused by Taliban and ISIS attacks.”

The US forces that the organization ignored the casualties inflicted on civilians by the Taliban and ISIS. “This includes ongoing Taliban use of car bombs, IEDs, rockets and targeted killings to intimidate, harass and instill fear across Afghanistan,” the statement said.

The Costs of War also expressed its concerns on the intensification of offensives between the government and Taliban, saying that both government and insurgents are trying to gain privilege on the negotiation table of the intra-Afghan talks.

As the US Forces have significantly reduced its airstrikes in support to the Afghan forces on the ground, the reports said that “the Afghan Air Force is harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history.”

At least 86 civilians were killed and 103 others wounded within the first six months of this year in the airstrikes conducted by the Afghan Air Force. “That rate of harm nearly doubled in the next three months,” the report reads. “Between July and the end of September, the Afghan Air Force killed 70 civilians and 90 civilians were injured.”

The organization said that the civilian casualties would continue as the sides involved in the Afghan war would try to gain leverage at the negotiation table.

The anti-government elements, including the Taliban and ISIS killed an average 1,964 civilians per year between 2007 and 2016. But the casualties increased between 2017 and 2019 with the killing of an average of 2,071 people each year, a slight but significant 5% increase.

The government forces are responsible for the killing of an average of 1,134 civilians in each year from 2017 to 2019, which shows a nearly 95 percent increase. However, from 2007 to 2016, these forces were responsible for the killing of an average of 582 civilians each year.

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