Read caption Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Death from above: Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly skies

Published 24. Feb 2019
3,804 civilians were killed and 7,189 injured last year as a result of the ongoing fighting between armed groups in Afghanistan. “Amid talks of potential ceasefire these devastating statistics show that the conflict in Afghanistan is only getting worse,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General for the Norwegian Refugee Council, who recently visited the conflict stricken country.

The numbers were launched in a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and further found that the number of civilians killed by air strikes by international military forces and the Afghan Air Forces has risen for the fourth year in a row - an increase of 82 per cent since 2017 – with 536 civilians killed and a further 479 injured.

“We are seeing a backwards deadly trend in Afghanistan with a growing neglect  of civilian lives in pursuit of military wins. The increased bombing is not expediting a peace process, it is in the most brutal way possible to undermine it while costing tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of civilian lives,” Egeland said “Numerous indiscriminate attacks on civilians by non-state armed groups and pro-government forces took place across the country, including by use of suicide bombers, road side bombs, air strikes, and targeted attacks on schools, hospitals and humanitarian colleagues”. 

The majority of last year’s civilian casualties caused by airstrikes were attributed to international military forces. This increase follows from a relaxation of the rules of engagement for airstrikes conducted by US Forces at the end of 2017. Since then international forces have released more weapons during airstrikes than any other year since 2013.

"Our home is destroyed now and we can't go back," displaced father of five Mazullah said. He can no longer walk after his home in Kandahar collapsed on top of him when it was bombed in an airstrike. Almost two million people have been displaced inside Afghanistan as a result of the ongoing violence between 2015-18. 

NRC urges the US and other NATO forces supporting the Resolute Support Mission and the Afghan Air Force to take immediate steps to protect civilians lives including; a review of targeting criteria, collecting sufficient information to accurately assess the presence of civilians at strike locations and suspending attacks that are likely to cause excessive civilian harm.

“International actors, who on the one hand are talking more of a negotiated end to the fighting continue to drop more and more bombs in Afghanistan – destroying the lives, homes and livelihoods of many Afghan civilians in the process,” Egeland said ‘‘If actors are truly committed to peace they must take the necessary steps to prevent civilians becoming casualties of war”.

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