KABUL (Reuters) – Battles between the Taleban and government forces were responsible for the most Af-ghan civilian casualties in 2014, the war’s deadliest year, surpassing roadside bombs as the leading killer for the first time, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
A total of 3,699 Afghan civilians were killed and 6,849 wounded in the war last year, as fighting intensi-fied in tandem with the sharp draw-down of US and allied foreign troops who formally ended their combat role in December after 13 years.
The 22 per cent rise in civilian deaths and injuries – the highest total since the UN began keeping records in 2009 – came despite US generals’ assessment that the newly trained Afghan army and police are winning the war.
“Mortars, IEDs, gunfire and other explosives destroyed human life, stole limbs and ruined lives at unprecedented levels,” said Ni-cholas Haysom, the UN special representative in Afghanistan.
Ground battles killed 1,092 civi-lians and accounted for 34 per cent of civilian deaths and injuries, compared to 28 per cent caused by roadside bombs known as impro-vised explosive devices (IEDs).
Assassinations by the Taleban and their allies made up 11 per cent of the overall toll, and insurgent sui-cide attacks accounted for 15 per cent. Explosives left on battlefields caused 4 per cent of casualties and the rest were classified as “other”.
The United Nations recorded 511 civilian deaths in December alone as the Taleban, who were ousted from power by a US-led coalition in 2001, launched waves of attacks to coincide with the official end of the NATO-led combat mission.
The report attributed 72 per cent of all civilian deaths and injuries last year to the Taleban and their allies, who seek to re-establish radi-cal Islamic rule.
Government forces were respon-sible for 14 per cent of casualties, international forces’ air strikes ac-counted for 2 per cent and the fault could not be determined in 10 per cent of cases.
The Taleban have in the past strenuously denied being responsi-ble for the vast majority of civilian deaths, calling the United Nations biased.
Since the UN began tracking civi-lian casualties in 2009, 17,774 civil-ian deaths and 29,971 injuries have been recorded.
Afghanistan’s national army and police have also suffered record losses last year, with nearly 5,000 killed.
Since 2001, nearly 3,500 foreign soldiers from 29 countries have been killed in Afghanistan, including about 2,200 Americans. Reliable in-surgent casualty numbers are not available.