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CIVCAS in Afghanistan

Afghan War News > Topics > Civilian Casualties

Every war sees its share of civilian casualties. Some of these casualties are unavoidable and are truly mistakes in war. Other civilian casualty events take place due to improper procedures and abhorrent policies.

Civilian casualties have gone up steadily in the Afghan War since 2009. The chart below from a report by the United Nations shows the rise in casualties (deaths and injuries) from January 2009 to December 2014.

CIVCAS Afghanistan 2015 UNAMA
Chart from UNAMA Report Feb 2016

Many of the CIVCAS events involving the United States that receive public attention are associated with airstrikes. Often there are contributing factors that can explain how the airstrike takes place but they are often hard to justify or explain away. One such example occurred in the fall of 2015 when U.S. special operations forces were assisting Afghan units in their counterattack to retake Kunduz City from the Taliban. An AC-130 fired on a Doctor's Without Borders medical facility within the city killing 9 medical staff and some patients (total of 22 dead). The international outcry was loud and Resolute Support suffered a horrendous information operations setback.

Publications on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan
(listed in chronological order)


Crawford, Neta C., Afghanistan's Rising Civilian Death Toll Due to Airstrikes, 2017-2020, Costs of War, Brown University, pdf, 10 pages, December 7, 2020. In 2017 the Pentagon relaxed the restrictions on air strikes wehre civilians were at risk and escalated the air war in Afghanistan in an attempt to gain leverage at the bargaining table. Civilian deaths due to airstrikes dramatically increased.
View report here.


UN, Annual Report 2016 - Protection of Civilians, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, February 2017.


OSF, The Strategic Cost of Civilian Harm: Applying Lessons from Afghanistan to Current and Future Conflicts, by Christopher Rogers, Rachel Reid & Chris Kolenda, Open Society Foundations, Washington D.C., June 2016.

UNAMA, Afghanistan Annual Report 2015 on Protection of Civlilians in Armed Conflict, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2016.


UNAMA, 2014 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2015.


Chesser, Susan G., Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians, Congressional Research Service (CRS), February 3, 2011.


Condra, Luke N. et al, The Effect of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 16152, July 2010.


ISAF, Tactical Directive, International Security Assistance Force, 6 July 2009. COMISAF letter introducing the revised Tactical Directive dated 2 July 2009. The directive advises the troops to " . . . avoid the trap of winning tactical victories - but suffering strategic defeats - by causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the people".


HRW, Troops in Contact: Airstrikes and Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan, by Human Rights Watch, September 8, 2008. This 43-page report provides information about US and NATO bombing causing civilian deaths, airstrike policies, Taliban use of civilians for shielding, legal standards, and recommendations.

Websites with Info on Afghan Civilian Casualties

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Listing of yearly reports on the protection of civilians.

Civilian Casualties in the War in Afghanistan (2011-2014) by Wikipedia . . . Afghanistan_(2001-14)

Casualty Monitor. A website providing information about casualties in Afghanistan (and elsewhere).

Center for Civilians in Conflict. A listing of reports about civilian casualties in Afghanistan from U.S. government, military, and civilian organizations.

U.S. Defense Department Listing of U.S. Casualties. This PDF file is updated periodically and reflects U.S. military and DoD Civilian (not contractors) casualties from OIF, OND, OEF, OIR, and OFS operations. Afghan, Iraqi, and other civilian casualties are not tracked in this document.

News Reports of about Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

March 4, 2016. "The ANSF's Zurmat Operation: Abuses against local civilians", Afghanistan Analysts Network. AAN examines a January 2016 operation that caused some civilian casualties.

February 14, 2016. "UN says 2015 was worst on record for civilian casualties in Afghanistan", The Telegraph. Last year saw 3,545 civilians killed as the Taliban stepped up attacks after British and American troops left at end of 2014.

February 14, 2016. "Afghanistan Had Record Number of Civilian Casualties Last Year, UN Says", The New York Times.

October 6, 2015. "A Brief History of Unplanned Air Strikes in Afghanistan", by Matthew Gault, War is Boring. The incident of CIVCAS in unplanned airstrikes far surpasses the incidentes of CIVCAS in planned airstrikes.

February 18, 2015. UNAMA 2014 Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Report, Resolute Support Mission. RS HQs response (can you spell 'spin') to the publication of the UNANA report on the rise of civilian casualties in the Afghan War.

February 18, 2015. "The Human Cost of the Afghan War: Un reports sharp rise in the killed and injured".  By Kate Clark of Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).

February 18, 2015. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rise by 22 per cent in 2014, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, February 18, 2015.

July 9, 2014. "Afghanistan: Ground combat taking 'devastating' civilian toll, says UN, reporting sharp rise in casualties", UN News Centre. UNAMA presents their mid-year report on the protection of civilians in Afghanistan.

May 2014. Afghanistan: At Least 21,000 Civilians Killed. Costs of War.

September 19, 2013. "Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan, 2001-2012: A Guide", The Nation. A key to The Nation's interactive database on civilian casualties in the Afghan War.

February 10, 2013. "General Allen Leaves with an Improved Report Card on Civilian Caualties and Torture". By Kate Clark of Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).

March 4, 2012. ISAF holds third Civilian Casualty Conference, International Security Assistance Force. ISAF service members and Afghan civil leaders from across Afghanistan traveled to Kabul to attend the third Civilian Casualty Conference at ISAF Headquarters.

February 12, 2012. "Dear Afghanistan: Thanks for Gettin' All Blowed Up". Sunny in Kabul. A blogger comments on ISAF whitewash of lated UNAMA report on civilian casaulties.

July 6, 2009. "Directive Re-emphasizes Protecting Afghan Civilians". DoD News. This news release introduces a new tactical directive for coalition forces serving in Afghanistan that re-emphasizes the importance of preventing civilian casualties.

May 16, 2009. "U.S. strikes killed 140 villagers: Afghan probe". Reuters. U.S. aircraft bombed villages in the Bala Boluk district of Afghanistan's western Farah province on May 3, 2009. The U.S. military says its estimates of dead were lower but it was hard to determine because the dead, according to Afghan custom, were quickly buried.

May 8, 2009. "Afghans riot over air-strike atrocity". The Independent.

September 9, 2008. "Afghanistan: Civilian Deaths from Airstrikes". Human Rights Watch. Airstrikes cause public backlash, undermine protection efforts. Civilian deaths from US and NATO airstrikes nearly tripled from 2006 to 2007.

November 18, 2007. "Losing Afghanistan, One Civilian at a Time". The Washington Post. Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann write about an incident where U.S. Marines killed 12 innocent civilians after an IED attack wounded one Marine.

May 2, 2007. "Karzai anger over civilian deaths". BBC News. Recent civilian deaths in Afghanistan has angered Karzai and the Afghan public.




1. The chart comes from a UNAMA press release. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rise by 22 per cent in 2014, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, February 18, 2015.


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