Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have reached a 16-year high because of Taliban improvised explosive devices, a new United Nations report reveals.
The U.N. also believes one-third of the Afghan population now lives under Taliban rule, and that the insurgent group controls approximately 40 percent of the country. Improvised explosive devices are the weapon of choice for the insurgent group, which frequently deploys them against U.S. and Afghan National Security Forces.
“A total of 1,662 civilian deaths were confirmed between 1 January and 30 June – an increase of two per cent on the same period last year, according to figures from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan,” the U.N. report noted. The report also notes “that 40 per cent of all civilian casualties during the six-month period were killed or injured by anti-government forces using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices, which were responsible for the deaths of 596 civilians and injured 1,483.”
The rise in civilian deaths comes as the U.S. considers sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan– a move coupled with the growing inability of the Afghan National Security Forces to restore order to the country. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.”
Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and U.S. Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisers at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.
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