KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s civilian casualty toll has jumped this year as insurgents fight to recapture territory from the departing American-led coalition, a U.N. report showed on Wednesday.
The number of dead rose 14 percent, and wounded 28 percent, compared with January-June last year, UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan, said in its mid-year report.
It blamed the insurgency for 74 percent of the casualties, while the Taliban defended itself by claiming they were mostly legitimate targets because they were working for its enemy, the Western-backed government.
Civilian casualties had dropped after U.S. President Barack Obama’s 30,000-troop surge. But UNAMA’s latest report cited an intensifying Taliban campaign to recapture lost ground as the coalition, which is preparing to complete its withdrawal by the end of 2014, hands over security responsibilities to a rebuilt Afghan military and police force.
UNAMA said it counted 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 wounded from January to June, compared with 1,158 deaths and 1,976 wounded in the first six months of 2012.
It said most were caused by homemade bombs and mines on or near roads. Nine percent were attributed to the Afghan security forces and U.S.-led international military coalition, and 12 percent to ground engagements between pro-government forces and insurgents. The rest were either unattributed or caused by old explosive charges.
The report found that 207 civilians died and 764 were injured in clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban, a 42 percent increase from the same period last year.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that Afghan forces are taking more casualties because they are doing more of the fighting against the Taliban. She said it was “inevitable that the numbers will probably rise because they’re taking on so much more capability. I think it’s 80 percent of all security operations now.”
Most foreign forces are to leave this year and there are already fewer than 100,000, 66,000 of them American. Plans to leave some troops are on hold pending signature of a delayed U.S.-Afghan security agreement.