[JURIST] The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website] released its annual report [text, PDF] on the “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict” on Wednesday, which indicated [press release] a 22 percent increase in civilian causalities in 2014. The marked increase represents the deadliest year in Afghanistan since record keeping began in 2009. UNAMA documented 10,548 civilian casualties in 2014, 3,699 of which resulted in civilian deaths. The increase is attributed to an increase in ground engagements and use of explosive weapons by the opposing parties. The report designated Anti-Government Elements as the leading cause of Afghan civilian deaths and injuries. The report included UNAMA’s observations that ground operations became larger and more frequent in 2014 following the withdrawal of international military forces and combat air support. The report called on anti-government, government and international forces to make changes to improve the protection of civilians in the future.
The US-led War on Terror [JURIST backgrounder] has drawn heavy criticism since US troops entered Afghanistan in 2001. At that time almost 130,000 troops from 50 nations were a part of the NATO alliance. Reported civilian casualties were a source of ongoing tension between NATO forces and the Afghan population throughout their occupation of the country. In October 2013 provincial police in eastern Afghanistan reported [JURIST report] that at least five civilians were killed in a NATO airstrike. In December NATO formally ended its war in Afghanistan [JURIST report] after 13 years of conflict. In September former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on [JURIST report] the Afghan government to strengthen human rights efforts in preparation for presidential elections in April 2014, urging the government to give particular attention to the growing rate of civilian casualties.