For those eager to use civilian casualties as a metric of progress in Afghanistan, the news isn’t good. According to UNAMA’s newly-released mid-year bulletin, Afghan civilians continue to die violently in ever increasing numbers. The gist:
In the first six months of 2009, UNAMA recorded 1013 civilian deaths, compared with 818 for the same period in 2008, and 684 in 2007 (see graph #1 below). This represents an increase of 24% of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2009 as compared to the same period in 2008. Both Anti-Government Elements and pro-government forces are responsible for the increase in civilian casualties. UNAMA Human Right’s figures indicate that more civilians are being killed by AGEs than by PGF. In the first six months of 2009, 59% of civilians were killed by AGEs and 30.5% by PGF. This represents a significant shift from 2007 when PGF were responsible for 41% and AGEs for 46% of civilian deaths.
I guess the silver lining for those looking for one is that ISAF and its American partners killed fewer non-combatants, which in the terminology of the CNAS whiz-kids probably translates into “better pop security”. But I wonder if it really makes much of a difference to the locals whether 300 or 250 of their loved ones perished at the hands of foreigners. Also, at the risk of sounding cynical, it might be worth pointing out that these numbers, while tragic, are still minuscule compared to Iraq — not mention, say, Somalia, Congo, or Darfur.
In short, civilian casualties remain a non-issue in this war, and we should be ever thankful for it.