The United States military Tuesday refuted as “one-sided” a new report that civilian casualties caused by American and coalition airstrikes in Afghanistan had spiked to record levels, VoA reported.
The report released Monday by the Costs of War project at Brown University attributed the increase to a 2017 decision by the Trump administration to relax the rules of engagement for airstrikes against the Taliban. It claimed the number of Afghan civilians killed in the strikes has since increased by 330%.
“We disagree with the one-sided analysis presented in Costs of War, which relies on disputed data and ignores civilian casualties caused by Taliban and ISIS attacks,” U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.
“This includes ongoing Taliban use of car bombs, IEDs [improvised explosive devices], rockets and targeted killings to intimidate, harass and instill fear across Afghanistan,” he added in a written response shared with VOA via email.
Leggett drew attention to the latest quarterly report by the United Nations that acknowledged Afghan civilian casualties caused by U.S. airstrikes “all but ceased” since February 29, the date when Washington sealed a troop withdrawal agreement with the Taliban.
“That same report attributed more than 3,400 civilian casualties to ‘anti-government elements,’ including ISIS and the Taliban,” he noted.
The Costs of War project says the escalation in U.S. airstrikes was seemingly directed at increasing pressure on the Taliban to negotiate peace. In 2019 alone, airstrikes killed 700 civilians — more civilians than in any other year since the beginning of the war in 2001 and 2002, the report said.
The Costs of War project also acknowledged that the pact led to a reduction in the airstrikes and the harm to Afghan civilians caused by those strikes.
The U.S.-Taliban agreement opened first-ever direct peace talks in September involving the insurgent group and representatives of the Afghan government. The slow-moving dialogue is being hosted by Qatar.
The Costs of War project cautioned that while international forces had pulled back on airstrikes, the U.S.-trained-and-equipped Afghan Air Force has increased combat missions against the Taliban, inflicting heavy casualties on civilians.