First half of 2011 most dangerous for Afghan civilians | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 18.07.2011
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First half of 2011 most dangerous for Afghan civilians

The first half of this year has been the bloodiest for the Afghan people since the start of fighting against the Taliban in 2001. And the series of attacks continues unrelentingly.

Afghans carry a victim of a suicide attack to a hospital in Kunduz

Afghans carry a victim of a suicide attack to a hospital in Kunduz

A study conducted by the UNAMA (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) has found that the number of civilians who have been killed in the first six months of the year 2011 is 15 percent higher than in the previous year. According to official figures, 1,500 men, women and children were killed within the first six months of the year, says UNAMA’s Director of Human Rights, Georgette Gagnon, adding that the number of unreported cases could be much higher. Furthermore, the study has found that the Taliban is to blame for over 80 percent of the deaths. "The drastic rise in casualties is due to the fact that Taliban fighters have started using more landmines and traps." Nonetheless, support for the Taliban has grown in the past few months in Helmand, Kandahar and Khost Provinces.

More and more accidents and attacks

An anti-personal mine explodes as a mine-clearing military vehicle makes its way through a minefield at the ISAF's airport in Kabul

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world

Last week reports of another tragic accident in Helmand made news after children there had stepped on a mine planted by the Taliban. Taj Mohammad was an eyewitness of the accident. He says it happened around 8:30 in the morning, when "the children had set off to get feed for the animals." He says he ran over to help the children as soon as he heard the explosion. "I went over to them right away and saw three children lying on the ground. One had already died; the two others died on the way to the hospital."

But people are not only dying in accidents caused by carelessness. Recently, more and more people close to the government have been targeted. Last Sunday, on July 17, suicide bombers assassinated a close advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul as well as a member of parliament. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. In the southern province of Kandahar, the situation is equally unstable, especially since the assassination of the Afghan president’s half-brother and influential tribal chief, Wali Ahmad Karzai in the beginning of July.

Many Afghans, including Abdul Satar from Kandahar, are skeptical that the situation will improve with the new tribal chief, Khan Wali Karzai. He says, "I don’t know him. I only know that he is the late Ahmad Wali Karzai’s brother, but I don’t think he will be able to bring peace and stability."

Angry demonstrators

Afghan protestors throng the streets following the killing of four Afghani people in a NATO raid

NATO raids are highly unpopular because of the steep number of civilian deaths they are causing

Afghans usually show their anger caused by civilian casualties in demonstrations. But for the most part, the protests are not aimed at the Taliban, but at government policies and foreign troops.

NATO troops are responsible for around 14 percent of civilian deaths, according to the UN study. Last week, a number of civilians, including a child, were killed in Khost in a suspected NATO operation. NATO forces have denied the accusations, saying there is no report on the death of civilians there. Nonetheless, the case is due to be examined.

A furious crowd carried the bodies through Khost in protest. "We are demonstrating against the government and against the international troops," says Gulbat Ahmed, a tailor from Khost. The attack has greatly damaged his trust in the government. He says, "we demand the resignation of Karzai and his government if they are not capable of protecting us."


New Afghan National Army recruits stand at attention during their graduation ceremony

Some experts doubt that Afghan security forces are ready to bear the burden alone

International troops have started pulling out of Afghanistan in the beginning of July. By the year 2014, Afghanistan should be rid of all foreign troops. "The increasing number of attacks, especially since the withdrawal of the troops, just highlights how instable the situation is in Afghanistan," says Staffan de Mistura, head of UNAMA.

He says it is of vital importance that the UN study on civilian casualties is taken seriously and that investigations continue, especially now, "as we are in the most volatile stage of the year, the Taliban's so-called 'summer offensive'. And the summer still has a ways to go."

Author: Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi / sb
Editor: Ziphora Robina

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