Report: Taliban attacks up along with civilian deaths
KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents have carried out more attacks this year than at any time since early in the war, killing increasing numbers of civilians as U.S.-led forces push into the militants’ southern strongholds, an Afghan rights group said Monday.
International troops were responsible for about one-fifth of civilian deaths — down from previous years, thanks to restrictive rules of engagement.
At least 1,074 civilians died in the first half of this year, triple the number of international forces killed in the same period, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor said. Its report called 2010 the worst year for security since shortly after the demise of the Taliban regime.
Violence has soared as coalition forces, bolstered by 30,000 American reinforcements, move into Taliban strongholds in the south and east to try to wrest the areas from the militants, strengthen Afghan government control and win Afghans’ trust. The insurgents have responded with a wave of ambushes, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and assassinations.
The number of civilian deaths is up in 2010, though only slightly, over the previous year’s first half, but the number of insurgent attacks — and their share of the civilian deaths — has spiked.
Afghanistan Rights Monitor Director Ajmal Samadi said the group recorded 1,200 violent incidents in June alone, the most in a single month since early 2002.
As reports of bombings and assassinations mount from all over the country, some Afghans are feeling increasingly uneasy.
“Unfortunately, I am hopeless with the current situation, and I don’t see a bright future,” said Ahmad Fahim, 28, who works in the education ministry in Kabul.
Fahim has no trouble believing this year is the most violent since the war’s early months. He said he and his friends see and hear the evidence in daily news reports. He holds the Taliban ultimately responsible but says the U.S. and its partners still kill too many civilians, even if by accident.
Still, insurgents were responsible for 661 of war-related civilian deaths so far this year, or 61 percent. International forces were responsible for 20 percent of the deaths and Afghan security forces for 10 percent. The remaining deaths either had unclear causes or were attributed to gangs or private security forces. The Afghan group compiles its statistics from interviews with witnesses, families of victims, local officials and media reports.
The share of accidental deaths by coalition and Afghan forces is falling, the statistics showed. Samadi credited the policy of restraint issued by former international forces commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal last year that severely limits the circumstances in which troops can call in an airstrike or fire into buildings. The strict rules of engagement are unpopular among some troops, who think they cost American lives and force them to give up the advantage of overwhelming firepower to a foe who can attack and then melt back into the civilian population.