Taliban Killing of Afghans Rose in 2011, General Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 — The Tal­iban are respon­si­ble for the ris­ing civil­ian death toll in Afghanistan, a top mil­i­tary com­man­der in the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force said here today.

At a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence, Army Lt. Gen. Cur­tis M. Scaparrot­ti, com­man­der of ISAF Joint Com­mand, con­firmed a Unit­ed Nations report that said civil­ian deaths in Afghanistan rose 8 per­cent in 2012. But he point­ed out that the Tal­iban, in what he called reck­less dis­re­gard for Afghans, were respon­si­ble for the vast major­i­ty of those civil­ian deaths.

Scaparrotti’s com­mand, based in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul, directs day-to-day mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Afghanistan.

The U.N. Assis­tance Mis­sion in Afghanistan released a report Feb. 4 doc­u­ment­ing that 3,021 Afghan civil­ians were killed in the war in the coun­try in 2011. This is an increase from 2010, when 2,790 Afghans died. The num­ber of casu­al­ties caused by the NATO force dropped, and 77 per­cent of the 2011 casu­al­ties were caused by the ene­my.

The over­all increase in casu­al­ties “is an increase pre­dom­i­nant­ly because of the enemy’s … tar­get­ing against civil­ians,” the gen­er­al said.

The rise in casu­al­ties is a mea­sure of the Taliban’s con­di­tion, Scaparrot­ti said. In the past, he explained, the Tal­iban had the free­dom of action that allowed them to orga­nize attacks against coali­tion and Afghan gov­ern­ment forces.

“The free­dom of action they show today is increas­ing­ly in [road­side bombs] and sui­cide bomb­ing,” he said. “They don’t have the capa­bil­i­ty to take us on direct­ly.” The Tal­iban, in fact, changed their tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures to tar­get Afghans, he added.

Sui­cide bombers cause civil­ian casu­al­ties, and one in three road­side bomb explo­sions kill civil­ians, not mil­i­tary per­son­nel, Scaparrot­ti said.

“What I would focus on is the fact that you’ve got an ene­my who has stat­ed that he is con­cerned about the peo­ple, that he doesn’t want to harm the peo­ple in his actions, and yet over these years you’ve seen a steady increase in that hap­pen­ing,” he said.

“On the oth­er hand” he added, “we work very, very hard to dri­ve down the … civil­ian casu­al­ties. It did go down 4 per­cent this year. And we’ll con­tin­ue to try and dri­ve that down as well.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)