Afghan civilian deaths rise in 2009

The UN Mission in Afghanistan says that civilian deaths rose by 14 percent in the country in 2009. 

Its report said the ‘vast majority’ of the deaths were caused by Taliban attacks. The rise makes 2009 the worst year for Afghan civilians since the war began when the Taliban were overthrown in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

According to the report, there were 2412 civilians killed in 2009 compared with 2118 deaths in the preceding year. Civilian casualties are a sensitive subject in Afghanistan, with US forces frequently accused of killing non-combatants in air attacks. The UN report said that deaths attributed to allied forces dropped by nearly 30% in 2009 – something the United States will hope, will be welcomed by Afghans.

In recent months the Americans have given repeated assurances to the Afghan government the international forces will seek to reduce civilian casualties in an effort to gain support among the Afghan people. The United States and NATO are to send nearly 40000 additional troops to the country in 2010. There are concerns that casualties will further rise as the fighting escalates.

Predetor drone attacks have increased since President Obama took office a year ago. In June 2009, the Inter Press Service  reported that the American CIA’s refusal to share with other agencies even the most basic data on the remote-controlled aircraft attacks in the northwestern tribal areas, combined with revelations that CIA operatives were paying Pakistanis to identify the targets, raised suspicions that the secrecy surrounding the attacks was used to hide abuses.

Dawn.com of Pakistan reported in early January that as many as 708 innocent civilians had been killed in 44 drone attacks in 2009. The number of key al Qaeda and Taliban figures killed was just five.  

According to Dawn, for each al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist by American drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis had to die. On average, 58 civilians were killed by drones every month, almost two people per day. Most of the attacks were carried out on the basis of intelligence provided by Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen spying for the US-led alliance in Afghanistan.