New York Times
By THOM SHANKER
March 10, 2011
Statistics compiled by the American-led military mission in Afghanistan indicate that 2,537 civilians were killed and 5,594 were wounded in 2009 and 2010, according to a study released Thursday.
Official military statistics provided to Science magazine show that about 88 percent of civilian casualties in Afghanistan over the past two years were caused by insurgents, while about 12 percent were the fault of American and coalition forces.
Those trends in dividing blame for the casualties have been well documented, although a significant disparity remains between the specific numbers compiled by the military and those tabulated by the United Nations and a human rights organization.
In a report released Wednesday, the United Nations and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said that more civilians were killed in 2010 alone than the military said perished over the past two years.
The United Nations said that 2,777 civilians were killed last year, and that 75 percent of the casualties were due to attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents rather than coalition forces.
Military officers did not dispute that the statistics compiled by the headquarters for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Kabul might not represent the full picture of civilian casualties. American and allied forces are not present in every district where civilian casualties occur. Especially in cases of civilian casualties from airstrikes in remote villages where there are no allied ground troops, it may take hours or days for investigators to arrive, by which time bodies have been removed.
“Our civilian casualty figures reflect information we can verify through operational reporting channels and investigations,” said Lt. Col. John L. Dorrian, an ISAF spokesman. “We are very clear that the figures we have reflect what we can verify ourselves. We acknowledge that there are likely additional civilian casualties that we cannot track.”
In an e-mail, he wrote that “the trends between all organizations are very similar.”
“All point to the Taliban as causing the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties,” he wrote.
The Science study is based on official military statistics that have not been released in full before, the magazine reported on its Web site.
Even as NATO forces have tightened the rules for military strikes in an effort to reduce civilian casualties, the continued deaths of innocents through actions by American and coalition forces are a significant strain in ties with the Afghan government.
Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.