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UN Report: August Deadliest Month in 2009 for Civilians in Afghanistan

Posted by Derrick Crowe on September 26th, 2009

(Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. You can learn more about civilian casualties caused by the war in Afghanistan by watching Rethink Afghanistan (Part Four): Civilian Casualties, or by visiting

The UN Secretary General today published the latest edition of the quarterly report, The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, which reveals that August 2009 was the deadliest month so far in 2009 for civilians. According to the report:

The Mission recorded 1,500 civilian casualties between January and August, with August being the deadliest month since the beginning of 2009. These figures reflect an increasing trend in insecurity over recent months and in elections-related violence. Almost three times as many civilian deaths (68 per cent) were attributed to anti-Government elements activities than to pro-Government forces (23 per cent). As detailed in the UNAMA mid-year bulletin on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the most deadly tactics used and which accounted for the largest number of civilian casualties in the conflict to date were attributable to planted improvised explosive devices, and suicide attacks carried out by anti-Government elements accounted for 39.5 per cent of fatalities. Air strikes by pro-Government forces accounted for 20 per cent of fatalities.

By comparing the last quarterly report with the year-long totals from this report, we find:

  • From January to May there were 800 civilian deaths, with 33 percent (264) caused by pro-Afghan-government forces (PGFs).
  • From June to August there were 700 civilian deaths. 23 percent (161) caused by PGFs.

Comments made by military officials earlier this month indicated they would use this new UN report to show that their “new” strategy was working, but today’s report shows that such an argument would be a clear case of moving goalposts. During his confirmation hearing, General Stanley McChrystal said that:

American success in Afghanistan should be measured by “the number of Afghans shielded from violence,” not the number of enemy fighters killed, he said.

Several months later, during a month in which American forces had been greatly increased for the purpose of providing election-related security, we stumble into the deadliest month for civilians so far in a year on track to be the most violent year since the U.S. invasion.

It’s not working.

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