More Afghan civilians were killed by Afghan and Nato forces than by the Taliban and other militants in the first half of 2019, according to UN figures, suggesting that similar findings for the first quarter of the year were not a blip.
Most of the civilian casualties were apparently inflicted during Afghan and Nato operations against insurgents, such as airstrikes and night raids on militant hideouts. Insurgents often hide among civilians.
The report by the UN mission in Afghanistan said 403 civilians were killed by Afghan forces in the first six months of the year and another 314 by international forces, a total of 717. In the same period 531 were killed by the Taliban, an Islamic State affiliate and other militants.
It said 300 of those killed by militants were directly targeted. The Taliban have been carrying out near-daily attacks, mainly targeting security forces.
In April the UN published figures for the first three months of 2019 with the same top line. That was the first time that pro-government forces had caused a majority of deaths since the UN began tracking civilian casualties in Afghanistan more than a decade ago.
The Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire as they hold talks with the US aimed at ending the 18-year war. An Islamic State affiliate has meanwhile launched attacks targeting security forces as well as minority Shia Muslims.
There was no immediate comment from the Kabul government, the Afghan military or the international coalition forces on the UN report.
The US formally ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 but still provides extensive air and other support to local forces.
“Parties to the conflict may give differing explanations for recent trends, each designed to justify their own military tactics,” said Richard Bennett, the human rights chief of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan, which released the report.
He said the situation for ordinary Afghans would be improved “not just by abiding by international humanitarian law but also by reducing the intensity of the fighting”.
The report said civilian deaths and injuries were down by a quarter from January to June 2019 compared with the same time last year, when casualties were at an all-time high. Civilian casualties attributed to insurgents dropped by 43%.
The report said one in three casualties were caused by ground combat and a fifth were caused by roadside bombs. Aerial operations accounted for about 14% of the casualties.
Meanwhile, there has been no claim of responsibility for an attack on Sunday night that apparently targeted the office of the Afghan president’s running mate and former chief of the intelligence service.
The vice-presidential candidate, Amrullah Saleh, was safely evacuated from the scene of the attack, which left at least 20 people dead and about 50 wounded. Saleh is known for his fierce anti-Taliban stance.