Afghan civilian casualties up by 23% in 2013, U.N. report says

Increased casualties More than 1,300 Afghan civilians were killed and more than 2,500 were injured during the first six months of 2013, a 23% percent increase over last year’s numbers, according to a U.N. report that was released on Wednesday (Pajhwok).  At least 74% of those casualties come from the Taliban, which has continued its ...

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Increased casualties

More than 1,300 Afghan civilians were killed and more than 2,500 were injured during the first six months of 2013, a 23% percent increase over last year's numbers, according to a U.N. report that was released on Wednesday (Pajhwok).  At least 74% of those casualties come from the Taliban, which has continued its indiscriminate use of roadside bombs and suicide attacks in major population centers.  In many areas where coalition forces have reduced their footprint, the fighting between the militants and Afghan security forces has intensified, and is the second largest cause of the civilian deaths and injuries.  

Increased casualties

More than 1,300 Afghan civilians were killed and more than 2,500 were injured during the first six months of 2013, a 23% percent increase over last year’s numbers, according to a U.N. report that was released on Wednesday (Pajhwok).  At least 74% of those casualties come from the Taliban, which has continued its indiscriminate use of roadside bombs and suicide attacks in major population centers.  In many areas where coalition forces have reduced their footprint, the fighting between the militants and Afghan security forces has intensified, and is the second largest cause of the civilian deaths and injuries.  

The report also notes that women and children are increasingly the victims of these attacks, with the numbers of those killed this year rising by 60% and 30%, respectively (NYT, Reuters).  The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, which released the report, said the indiscriminate and deliberate targeting of civilians by militant groups are "violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes" (VOA).

A separate twice-yearly report, released by the Pentagon on Tuesday, suggests that Afghan security forces will require significant foreign military assistance and financial support long after 2014 (NYT, Pajhwok).  The assessment, titled Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, covers the six months from October 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, and concludes before the beginning of this year’s annual fighting season.  While the report highlights continuing challenges to Afghan security, rule of law, and economic prosperity, it also notes that the Afghan forces are taking over the country’s military operations and that in most parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban is less capable, less popular, and less of a threat than it was in 2011. The report’s release comes days after Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the U.S. commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, told the New York Times that Afghanistan would need U.S. assistance for years to come.

Amb. James Dobbins, the Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday to discuss Karzai’s visit to Pakistan and a number of other bilateral issues (Pajhwok).  While the presidential palace’s statement about the visit was light on details, it did say that the two men had talked about the stalled reconciliation process and the Bilateral Security Agreement that will determine the size and a shape of the U.S. mission after 2014.

Recaptured

Pakistani police officers recaptured 45 prisoners who escaped during Monday’s attack on the Dera Ismail Khan Central Jail in Khyber Pakhtunkwha province on Wednesday in multiple parts of the city (Dawn, ET).  The escapees are currently being held in jails in the areas where they were captured, but will eventually be returned to the central prison.  While no information has been given about who was recaptured, Pakistani security forces did release a list of the 252 prisoners who went missing after the attack, including 11 high-profile militants (no electronic copy is available).  

Pakistan’s security agencies also revealed on Wednesday that members of the Pakistani Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, another militant group, have planned attacks on the Haripur Central Jail, also in Khyber Pakhtunkwha province, as well as the Chak Shahzad farmhouse where former president Pervez Musharraf is under house arrest (Dawn, ET).  Like the Dera Ismail Khan facility, the Haripur jail houses several senior militants, and security warnings have been issued to all relevant departments.  In particular, the guards have been warned that the attackers might disguise themselves as security officers.  

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri capitalized on the success of Monday’s jailbreak by releasing a video statement on Wednesday that said the group would spare no effort to free "Omar Abdel Rahman, Aafia Siddiqui, Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, and every oppressed Muslim everywhere" (Reuters).  Rahman is currently serving a life sentence in North Carolina for plotting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Siddiqui is imprisoned in Texas for attempted murder, and as the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks, Mohammad is being held at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Zawahiri did not elaborate on what steps the group would take to free these prisoners, but it is likely al-Qaeda has taken note of the success of the Dera Ismail Khan attack.

You just won… a baby?

The Aman Ramazan show – Pakistan’s equivalent of "The Price is Right" – is giving away motorbikes, microwave ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, and now, babies, to contestants who correctly answer questions about the Koran (CNN).  On a recent episode, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, the show’s host, handed baby girls to two unsuspecting couples; a baby boy will be given out shortly.  The girls were found by the Chhipa Welfare Association, a non-profit social welfare organization, which says it receives about 15 abandoned babies a month.  Adoption is not officially recognized in Pakistan and the families receiving the children will need to apply for guardianships at a family court. 

— Bailey Cahall 

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