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08 February, 2017

Record number of civilians killed and injured in 2016 Afghan airstrikes

Air attacks by Afghan and international forces caused a total of 590 civilian casualties in 2016 (250 deaths and 340 people injured), almost double that of 2015.

by Jack Serle

Part 2 - More civilians killed per strike

Across the country in 2016 US pilots killed or injured one civilian in every three strikes, on average – marginally less than in 2015 but still much more often than any other year since 2009 when the US military changed targeting rules to reduce civilian harm.

The civilian casualty rate plummeted as a result of the new rules, which were brought in because commanders believed the civilian deaths were driving the Afghan people into the arms of the Taliban.

The rule change specifically prohibited strikes on buildings in all but the most extreme circumstances, because such attacks were most likely to hurt civilians.

The US will not comment on whether the rules have changed. However the Bureau has recorded at least 73 strikes on buildings in Afghanistan – out of 1,346 in total – since it began monitoring reports of US air attacks in Afghanistan following the end of combat operations in December 2014.

One series of strikes in November this year hit several buildings, killing 32 civilians. Unama says questions remain about whether the attacks were acceptable under international law.

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