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The dead rising: Afghanistan

Afghans are dying in record numbers. The number of dead civilians has increased in 2009 over the previous year. According to a UN report, at least 5,978 were injured or killed in 2009. Afghans have endured some three decades of warfare, and millions of them live a difficult existence as refugees in Pakistan and Iran. This is a terrible toll on a country that has an estimated population of 28.4 million (2009, CIA Factbook). It is no surprise that under such hardship and faced with such ongoing tragedy, people would demand better and would seek a minimum of peace by decrying the current situation and system that has enabled, maintained, and deepened such atrocity, by blaming all sides involved, the Taliban, the government, and foreign occupation forces. The issue comes to a boil when it seems that no one is taking very serious and immediate steps to eliminate deaths caused by their actions, and that the killing of civilians would constantly remain the subject of ‘investigation’ rather than a concerted effort to halt one’s own party from being a cause of casualties. This issue has persisted now since the 2001 invasion of the country, and it appears that the discourse on the subject is one of investigation (tied to the very act of denial of one’s own responsibility), followed by (when caught literally red-handed by video evidence or accounts of casualties) promises of reductions in the number killed. That anyone can speak of reductions over a very serious attempt to bring the number down to nothing seems to me evidence of detachment from those suffering from violence, as if some cold calculus has been conducted that judges a certain number of children and adult dead in pursuit of a political-military goal as arbitrarily acceptable: this of course defined by those who hold the guns.  The people, then, must indeed be glad that their superiors in power can make such efficient decisions and are technically-minded enough to be able to act upon them. If the people cannot realize or appreciate this, well, then that must be evidence simply of the correctness of their not being in charge — what a privilege indeed to have the aid, and rule, of men with guns.

Civilian casualties of war (deaths only)

Month

2007

2008

2009

January

50

56

141

February

45

168

149

March

104

122

129

April

85

136

128

May

147

164

271

June

253

172

236

July

218

323

198

August

138

341

33

September

155

162

336

October

80

194

162

November

160

176

165

December

88

104

164

TOTAL

1523

2118

2412

Source: UNAMA

Excerpt from IRNA:

At least 5,978 civilians were killed or injured in 2009, UNAMA said in a report entitled Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2009. “UNAMA Human Rights [unit] recorded a total of 2,412 civilian deaths between 1 January and 31 December 2009. This figure represents an increase of 14 percent on the 2,118 civilian deaths recorded in 2008,” said the report released on 13 January 2010.

…UNAMA blamed Taliban insurgents for 1,630 civilian deaths (67 percent of the total recorded deaths) in 2009.

…Civilian casualties resulting from military operations by pro-government Afghan and foreign forces dropped by 28 percent in 2009 compared to 2008, according to UNAMA. In total 596 civilian deaths (25 percent of total) were attributed to Afghan and foreign forces.

Over 180 deaths could not be attributed to any of the conflicting parties and resulted from cross-fire or unexploded ordnance.

Civilian casualties of war (deaths only)

Month

2007

2008

2009

January

50

56

141

February

45

168

149

March

104

122

129

April

85

136

128

May

147

164

271

June

253

172

236

July

218

323

198

August

138

341

33

September

155

162

336

October

80

194

162

November

160

176

165

December

88

104

164

TOTAL

1523

2118

2412

Source: UNAMA

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