Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Update: 1 January to 30 June 2021


Between 1 January and 30 June 2021, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 5,183 civilian casualties (1,659 killed and 3,524 injured). The total number of civilians killed and injured increased by 47 per cent compared with the first half of 2020, reversing the trend of the past four years of decreasing civilian casualties in the first six months of the year, with civilian casualties rising again to the record levels seen in the first six months of 2014 to 2018.

Civilian casualties increased for women, girls, boys, and men. Of particular concern, UNAMA documented record numbers of girls and women killed and injured, as well as record numbers of overall child casualties. Compared with the first six months of 2020, the number of civilian female children (girls) and female adults (women) killed and injured each nearly doubled.

Male child (boy) civilian casualties increased by 36 per 1 UNAMA targeted killing figures include both targeting of civilians and civilians incidentally impacted from targeting of other non-civilian individuals. See UNAMA Protection of Civilians Annual Report 2020 glossary for details. cent, and adult male (men) civilian casualties increased by 35 per cent.

During the first six months of 2021, and in comparison with the same period last year, UNAMA documented a nearly threefold increase in civilian casualties resulting from the use of non-suicide improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by Anti-Government Elements. This was the most civilian casualties caused by non-suicide IEDs in the first six months of a year since UNAMA began systematic documentation of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009. Civilian casualties from ground engagements, attributed mainly to the Taliban and Afghan national security forces, also increased significantly. Targeted Killings1 by Anti-Government Elements continued at similarly high levels. Airstrikes by Pro-Government Forces caused increased numbers of civilian casualties, mainly attributed to the Afghan Air Force.

UNAMA is concerned by the increased number of civilian casualties that have occurred since the announcements by international military forces in April, and then commencement shortly thereafter, of their withdrawal from Afghanistan, after which the Taliban captured a significant number of district administrative centres.

Between 1 May and 30 June 2021, UNAMA recorded 2,392 civilian casualties, nearly as many as were documented in the entire four preceding months. 2 The number of civilian casualties in May-June 2021 was the highest on record for those two months since UNAMA began systematic documentation in 2009. UNAMA further documented numerous instances of destruction of civilian property, which often resulted from battles for control of populated rural areas and fighting on the outskirts of district and provincial centres.

UNAMA is also concerned about the increasing number of reports of killing, ill-treatment, persecution and discrimination in communities affected by the current * ‘Other’ includes the following: 92 civilian casualties (14 killed, 78 injured) from suicide attacks; 40 civilian casualties (29 killed, 11 injured) from kidnapping/abductions; 38 civilian casualties (six killed, 32 injured) from threat/intimidation/harassment incidents; 26 civilian casualties (11 killed, 15 injured) from escalation of force/force protection incidents; eight civilians killed during search operations by progovernment forces; one civilian killed by a Taliban parallel justice structure punishment; one civilian injured during an incident of intentional damage to civilian property; and four civilian casualties (one killed and three injured) from other incident types. 2 Between 1 Jan – 30 April 2021 UNAMA documented 2,791 civilian casualties. 3 From 1 October 2020 to 30 June 2021, UNAMA documented 7,982 civilian casualties (2,553 killed and 5,429 injured) in comparison to 5,449 civilian casualties (2,030 killed and 3,419 injured) in the same period a year earlier. fighting and its aftermath. Especially during times of heightened conflict, all parties must respect the human rights and dignity of people and prevent such abuses and violations.

The continued, and increasing, impact of the fighting on civilians highlights the dismal failure of the parties to find any means of reducing harm to civilians during peace negotiations. Since September 2020 – the start of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations – UNAMA documented a 46 per cent increase in civilian casualties in comparison to the same nine-month period a year earlier. 3 The pursuit of a military solution will only increase the suffering of the Afghan people. Afghan leaders, with the support of the region and the international community, must heed and answer the calls for peace from the people. For the people of Afghanistan, all efforts must be made by the parties to move away from the battlefield and back to the negotiating table.