The civilian death rate in Afghanistan is at an all-time high partially due to an increase in US military airstrikes. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented more than 3,800 civilian deaths in the country in 2018, including an estimated 930 children and 11,000 civil casualties. Although most of these deaths were a direct result of Taliban action, it has been determined that the US is responsible for about a quarter of the lives lost. However, US forces have killed more children than their adversaries this year due to airstrikes.
Ramping up airstrikes has been part of the Trump administration’s strategy to force the Taliban to consider negotiation, and the US dropped more munitions than in the last three years combined. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began recording civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009. The mission routinely attributes more casualties to US forces than the Pentagon does, citing different methodologies, the US military regularly disputes.
UNAMA made a statement detailing how they were “particularly concerned by the number of civilian deaths from aerial operations” in 2018, adding that international military forces—including, especially, the US, which is the only foreign country officially conducting strikes in Afghanistan—were responsible for the majority of civilian casualties.
Establishment media coverage of these figures has been sparse.
Source: Phillip Walter Wellman, “UN: American Airstrikes Contribute to Record Number of Children, Civilians Killed in Afghanistan,” Stars and Stripes, February 4, 2019, https://www.stripes.com/news/un-american-airstrikes-contribute-to-record-number-of-children-civilians-killed-in-afghanistan-1.570188.
Student Researcher: Haley Skinner (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)