UN: Taliban cause Afghan civilian deaths to soar

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KABUL (AP) — The U.N. says the number of Afghan civilians who died in war-related violence last year has soared to the highest annual level since the conflict began in 2001.

Meanwhile, it says deaths attributed to allied forces dropped nearly 30 percent — a key U.S. goal for winning over the Afghan people.

Unrelenting violence, which has defied a usual lull in the winter, has highlighted concern that casualties will rise as the U.S. and NATO send 37,000 more troops to try to stabilize the country. Civilian casualties have been a sensitive subject in Afghanistan, with U.S. forces frequently accused of killing noncombatants in airstrikes.

The U.N. announced the casualty toll in a report released Wednesday.