UN: US-backed forces killed more Afghan civilians than Taliban and ISIS in 2019

In an “unprecedented” revelation that highlights the consequences of the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, the United Nations announced Wednesday that U.S.-backed forces killed more Afghan civilians than the Taliban and other armed anti-government groups did in the first three months of this year.

A new quarterly report (pdf) from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) shows that “pro-government forces,” including both Afghan and international troops, killed 305 civilians from January to the end of March.

That compared with 227 civilians killed by “anti-government elements” such as the Taliban and ISIS. There were 49 unattributable deaths, which includes those caught in crossfire.

“A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement Wednesday.

While encouraging all parties to “do more to safeguard civilians,” Yamamoto specifically urged anti-government elements—which injured more civilians in early 2019 than pro-government forces did—to stop targeting civilians, particularly with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Yamamoto also called on pro-government forces “to take immediate measures to mitigate the rising death toll and suffering caused by airstrikes and search operations.” Such tactics drove an overall increase in civilian casualties (deaths and injuries) from those forces, according to the report.

“In Afghanistan, massive airstrikes, drone operations, and brutal night raids are killing more civilians in these days than any insurgent group does,” Emran Feroz, a Austro-Afghan independent journalist and founder of Drone Memorial, tweeted Wednesday, citing the report. “This is not a surprise for those who are researching for years.”