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Afghanistan’s Rising Civilian Death Toll Due to Airstrikes, 2017-2020
December 7, 2020
In 2017, the Pentagon relaxed the rules of engagement in Afghanistan, effectively lifting restraints that were intended to save civilian lives. This was a deliberate policy choice in an effort to gain leverage in negotiations with the Taliban, and civilians have paid a high price. This is particularly evidenced by the 95 percent increase in civilians killed by U.S. and allied forces’ airstrikes between 2017 and 2019 as compared to the previous 10 years.
Link to Report
For More Information
This report is the latest from the Costs of War project, housed at Brown University and launched by a group of scholars and experts to document the unacknowledged costs of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Please see www.costsofwar.org and reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Both the Taliban and the United States have used violence to gain leverage in their negotiations with one another, and civilians are paying the price.|
|In particular, air strikes in Afghanistan by the United States and allies have killed a dramatically higher number of civilians.|
|Relaxing the rules of engagement in Afghanistan was a deliberate choice by the United States that has led to massive civilian harm.|
Key Figures & Findings
Figure 1. U.S. Central Command Air Strikes and Weapons Releases in Afghanistan, 2011-February 2020
* Note that the U.S. Central Command stopped publishing its monthly summaries of air strikes in Afghanistan in March 2020, so there are no figures for airstrikes after February.
Figure 2. UNAMA Report of Number of Civilians Killed in Afghanistan by ProGovernment Air Strikes, 2006- September 2020.
Figure 3. UNAMA Report Number of Civilians Injured in Afghanistan by Aerial Operations, 2009-September 2019
- The number of civilians killed by U.S. and allied airstrikes in Afghanistan has increased by 330 percent during the Trump administration. More details in a new report from @CostsOfWar: [LINK]
- In the period leading up to and during negotiations with the Taliban in Feb. 2020, the U.S. and its allies intentionally ramped up airstrikes in Afghanistan to gain leverage in the talks. Civilians paid the price. Read more from @CostsOfWar: [LINK]
- Between 2017-2019, in an attempt to increase leverage in negotiations with the Taliban, U.S. and allied forces’ airstrikes killed 1,134 civilians in Afghanistan. That is 95 percent higher than the number they killed during the 10 years prior. More from @CostsOfWar: [LINK]
- In 2018, a U.S. military official said: “The entire purpose behind our air campaign is to pressure the Taliban into reconciliation and help them realize that peace talks are their best option.” A new report from @CostsOfWar reveals the high cost that civilians in Afghanistan have paid for this approach: [LINK]
- In March 2020, the Trump administration stopped releasing information about how many civilians are dying as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in Afghanistan. Here’s what we know about the dramatic rise in civilian deaths preceding that decision, in a new report from @CostsOfWar: [LINK]