The gradual withdrawal of foreign troops has left Afghan
government forces more vulnerable to attack by insurgents, and the
resulting battles helped account for last year's rise in casualties,
according to the report.
"The new trend in 2013 of increased civilian casualties from ground
engagements, including the alarming increase in women and children
casualties, reflected the changing dynamics of the conflict over the
year," the United Nations said.
Last year was the worst for women and children since 2009, with the
number killed or injured by the conflict increasing by more than
one-third from 2012.
About 27 percent of all 2013 casualties stemmed from fighting
between the government and insurgents, and most of these could not
be attributed to one side.
"This 'fog of war' dynamic reflects the changed nature of the
conflict in Afghanistan in 2013 which was increasingly being waged
in civilian communities and populated areas," the United Nations
The biggest single killer remained improvised explosive devices
(IEDs), or bombs, detonated by insurgents in public areas such as
markets, roads and government buildings. Bombs accounted for about
one-third of the total civilian toll, which the United Nations put
at 2,959 deaths and 5,656 injured.
While both sides in the conflict were responsible for the increase
in casualties last year, the United Nations attributed about
three-quarters of the toll to the Taliban.
"Statements on protecting civilians by the Taliban leadership are
not nearly enough to end the killing and injuring of innocent Afghan
civilians," said U.N. Special Representative Ján Kubiš in a
"What is needed is for the Taliban to stop deliberately attacking
civilians and using IEDS indiscriminately."
International forces, who have handed over responsibility for
security to the Afghans in preparation for their withdrawal by the
end of this year, and say they participate only in joint operations,
caused about 3 percent of casualties, according to the report.
While these make up only a fraction of the total casualties, air
strikes causing civilian deaths or injuries are a major source of
tension between President Hamid Karzai and the United States.
[to top of second column]
The U.N. report said that in 2013, there were 54 aerial operations
that resulted in civilian casualties. While this was a 10 percent
drop from the number of such cases in 2012, women and children
accounted for nearly half of casualties.
Of the 54 cases, 19 were by unmanned aerial vehicles. The number of
civilian victims from these so-called drone strikes more than
tripled from 2012, the United Nations said.
The United Nations said there was a sharp increase in incidents
perpetrated by a security force known as the Afghan Local Police
(ALP), set up in 2010 to operate in remote, insecure areas.
Throughout 2013, the U.N. mission in Afghanistan "documented
incidents where ALP carried out serious human rights violations with
impunity which were often enabled by provincial or national level
power-brokers", the report said.
ALP-linked casualties tripled, the United Nations said, and included
summary executions, punishments and acts of revenge.
These were conducted with impunity, it appeared, as the United
Nations was unable to find any information on prosecutions,
suspensions or other action taken despite some 100 cases having been
reported to the authorities.
"There are groups that are boasting about killing civilians and
making statements how good it is that civilians are being targeted
and killed," Kubiš told reporters on Saturday.
"These groups should understand this might border on war crimes...
And they will be held accountable sooner or later."
On the positive side, the United Nations said many communities
reported that they owed an improvement in security to the police.
(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni;
editing by Richard Borsuk)
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