A scathing report from Brown University states that Afghan civilian deaths from American airstrikes spiked after the United States eased the rules of engagement in 2017.
The number of civilians killed annually by U.S.-led coalition air attacks soared by over 300 percent, according to the report by Neta Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University. The report stated that 700 civilians were killed in airstrikes in 2019, more than any other year since the U.S. began operations in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11.
However, the U.S. military pushed back against what it characterized as a “one-sided” report. And the facts published by the U.N. confirm that Afghan civilians were more than 20 times more likely to be killed by the Taliban than U.S. airstrikes.
Col. Sonny Leggett, the spokesman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) said, “We disagree with the one-sided analysis presented in Costs of War, which relies on disputed data and ignores civilian casualties caused by Taliban and ISIS attacks.”
“This includes ongoing Taliban use of car bombs, IEDs, rockets, and targeted killings to intimidate, harass and instill fear across Afghanistan,” Leggett added in a statement released to the media.
Leggett also mentioned a quarterly report issued by the United Nations that stated that Afghan civilian casualties caused by U.S. airstrikes “all but ceased” since February 29, when the peace deal was signed in Doha.
“That same report attributed more than 3,400 civilian casualties to ‘anti-government elements,’ including ISIS and the Taliban,” he added.
The U.S. has cut back on airstrikes against the Taliban since signing the peace agreement in February. However, the Afghan government forces have stepped up their own airstrikes. In her report, Crawford states that there have been 86 Afghan civilians killed and 103 injured by Afghan Air Force airstrikes between January and June of 2020.
“That rate of harm nearly doubled in the next three months. Between July and the end of September, the Afghan Air Force killed 70 civilians, and 90 civilians were injured,” Crawford added.
According to critics, the one thing that Crawford’s report has virtually ignored is that it makes no mention of Taliban and ISIS attacks on civilians.
Thus far in 2020, total civilian casualties in Afghanistan have been 2,117 killed and 3,822 wounded, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” U.N.’s report added.
The Taliban were responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, U.N.’s report found. U.S.-led coalition troops were responsible for only two percent. Most of the remainder came in the crossfire between Islamic State militants or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements.
So, while Crawford’s report attempts to make a bombshell indictment of U.S.-led airstrikes, according to the U.N., Taliban attacks were 22 times more likely to cause civilian deaths.