Taleban blames US, Afghan forces for most civilian casualties in 2018

KABUL (AFP) – The Taleban blamed the United States (US) and Afghan forces for almost 90 per cent of civilian casualties in 2018, in a report released on Friday that suggested Afghanistan’s largest militant group was not responsible for a single death or injury.

The data – which the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan dismissed as “propaganda” – follows a record year of bloodshed in the Afghan war, which by some estimates overtook Syria as the world’s deadliest conflict zone.

The figures, which the Taleban release every year and are based on “witnesses and primary sources”, showed a total of 4,170 civilian casualties – 2,294 deaths and 1,876 wounded – last year.

US and Afghan government forces caused 3,705 casualties, while the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and other “unknown” entities were responsible for 465, the Taleban claimed.

Rejecting the figures, Resolute Support said the Taleban continued “to inflict great harm on Afghan civilians”.

“Over the last few months alone, the Taleban has carried out a host of atrocities against their own countrymen,” the NATO mission said in a statement. The Taleban’s total number of civilian casualties is around half the number reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for the first nine months of 2018.

UNAMA’s last report in October last year found the majority of civilian casualties were caused by militants, including the Taleban. Its full-year tally is expected to be released next month.

The Taleban’s report omitted a number of major attacks that deliberately targetted civilians and were claimed by the group.

They included a bomb-laden ambulance that detonated in a crowded street in Kabul last January, killing more than 100 people and wounding hundreds more.

The Taleban also carried out a devastating raid on a luxury hotel in the Afghan capital in the same month that killed at least 25 people.

The group has been widely blamed for last month’s attack on a government compound in Kabul that killed over 40.

The Taleban’s report came as international efforts to convince the militants to end the 17-year war gather pace, even as US President Donald Trump moves to slash the number of American troops in Afghanistan and the militants slaughter Afghan forces in record numbers.