The Human Rights Unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) prepared this mid-year report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan, which covers the period of January 1 to June 30, 2013, and is mandated by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2096 (2013), which "recognizes the importance of ongoing monitoring and reporting to the United Nations Security Council on the situation of civilians in Afghanistan's armed conflict and in particular on civilian casualties."
Escalating deaths and injuries to Afghan children, women and men led to a 23 percent resurgence in civilian casualties in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. UNAMA documented 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 injuries (3,852 casualties) from January to June 2013, marking a 14 percent increase in deaths, 28 percent increase in injuries and 23 percent increase in total civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2012. The rise in civilian casualties in the first half of 2013 reverses the decline recorded in 2012, and marks a return to the high numbers of civilian deaths and injuries documented in 2011.
UNAMA attributed 74 percent of civilian deaths and injuries to Anti-Government Elements, nine percent to Pro-Government Forces and 12 percent to ground engagements between Pro-Government Forces and Anti-Government Elements. The remaining four percent of civilian casualties were unattributed caused mainly by explosive remnants of war.
While improvised explosive devices used by Anti-Government Elements caused the most civilian casualties similar to previous periods, increased ground engagement between Afghan forces and Anti-Government Elements was the second leading cause of civilian deaths and injuries representing a new trend in the first half of 2013 and an increasing threat to Afghan civilians.
Midway through the year, UNAMA re-asserts the imperative for parties to the armed conflict to halt the worsening impact of conflict on Afghan civilians and take all necessary measures to improve civilian protection and comply fully with their legal obligations to prevent civilian loss of life and injury.
Women and children experienced increased suffering from the effects of the armed conflict. Conflict-related violence killed 106 women and injured 241 (347 casualties) from 1 January to 30 June 2013, up 61 percent from the same span in 2012 with ground engagements involving parties to the conflict the leading cause of female casualties followed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by Anti-Government Elements. In the same period, 231 children were killed and 529 injured (760 casualties), up 30 percent from the previous year, with improvised explosive devices the leading cause, followed by ground engagements and explosive remnants of war.
Overall, the main factors driving the escalation in deaths and injuries to Afghan civilians in the first half of 2013 were an increase in the indiscriminate use of IEDs by AntiGovernment Elements, and suicide and/or complex attacks in areas populated or frequented by civilians, including civilian Government offices. UNAMA also documented increased civilian casualties attributed to Anti-Government Elements including targeted killings, attacks against civilian Government workers, abductions and killings, and high levels of threats and intimidation.
Changing political and security dynamics in the first six months of 2013 impeded protection of civilians and restricted access to human rights. The stepped-up transition of security responsibilities from international military forces to Afghan forces and closure of international forces' military bases was met with increased attacks by Anti-Government Elements on Afghan National Security Forces mainly at checkpoints, on strategic highways, in some areas that had been transitioned and in districts bordering neighboring countries. These efforts by Anti-Government Elements to assert territorial influence in contested areas led to increased ground engagement between AntiGovernment Elements and Pro-Government Forces, particularly Afghan forces with civilians increasingly being killed or injured in the crossfire or by improvised explosive devices planted by Anti-Government Elements.
Security gaps and struggles between armed groups and powerbrokers for influence over territory and political actors also gave rise to increased security incidents such as armed clashes and targeted killings that often led to civilian casualties.