Afghanistan civilian deaths hit record highs as US airstrikes reach 2012 levels

Adam BaderLast Update : Tuesday 18 July 2017 - 7:00 AM
Afghanistan civilian deaths hit record highs as US airstrikes reach 2012 levels

The US Air Force has used the same number of munitions in the first half of 2017 as they used at the same point in 2012. At the same time, the number of missions has decreased and the number of civilian deaths has increased.

The US and coalition forces have expended 1,634 munitions in Afghanistan from January 1 to June 30, according to numbers from the US Air Force. By comparison, the Air Force had expended 545 munitions by the end of June 2016 and only 298 by the end of June 2015.

In total, the US released more munitions in the first six months of this year than all of the previous year.

In the first half of this year, the Air Force  conducted 2,049 sorties and 513 releasing at least one weapon so far this year. By comparison, there were 28,760 sorties recorded in 2012, with 1,975 of them reported to have released at least one weapon.

By the end of 2012, there were 4,083 munitions released, according to the Air Force data.

Many of the munitions released in 2017 were fired by the Afghan Air Forces (AAF) which the US Air Force is advising, according to the unclassified report from the USAF.

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The report states that the AAF has repaired and recovered battle damaged helicopters and conducted their first operational airdrop, delivering food to troops.

The last time the US Air Force expended munitions at this level was in 2012. At the time, there were nearly 50,000 US soldiers in the country, compared to the 9,800 US troops estimated to be stationed there now.

In June, President Donald Trump authorized the Pentagon, headed by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, to set the number of US forces in Afghanistan. Mattis reportedly plans to deploy an additional 4,000 troops to the war-torn country, signaling the largest troop increase since Trump took office.

report released Monday by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also documented an increase in the number of civilian casualties resulting from aerial operations during the first half of 2017.

So far this year, there have been 232 civilian casualties reported, a 43 percent increase compared to the first six months of 2016, when 162 civilian casualties were reported.

Of the 232 casualties, 114 were attributed to 19 operations carried out by the AFF.

“Each one of these casualty figures reflects a broken family, unimaginable trauma and suffering, and the brutal violation of people’s human rights,”  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

“Many Afghan civilians are suffering psychological trauma, having lost family and friends, and are living in fear knowing the risks they face as they go about their daily lives. Many more have been forced from their homes and suffered lasting damage to their health, education and livelihoods. The continuing national tragedy of Afghanistan must not be overlooked,”  Al Hussein said.

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Adam Bader