The year 2011 has already become the deadliest year for Afghan civilians since 2001. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) has released a report which establishes the first half of 2011 as being the deadliest so far registering the highest number of civilian deaths since the fall of Taliban regime in 2001. In a period of six months, from January to June 2011, 1462 civilians have lost their lives as a result of ongoing war in the country.
This figure, according to the report, shows a 15% increase compared to the same period of last year which saw the number of civilian deaths standing at 1271. These shocking statistics are a testimony to the escalation of the war and the worsening of the security situation across the country. The report attributes over 80% of the deaths of civilians during this period to Taliban and other militant groups. This seems plausible given the fact that it is the Taliban and other militant groups' roadside bombings, suicide attacks and targeted killings that claim most of the civilian casualties all across the country.
The report says only 14% of the civilian deaths are caused by international coalition and Afghan National Security Forces operations. This too seems to be close to reality since the number of civilian casualties as a result of operations by Afghan and foreign forces pales in front of the death and destruction caused by Taliban and their brethren. They, as usual, have "condemned" the report dismissing it as being "impartial" and "biased".
The fact is that this unprecedented rise in civilian deaths across Afghanistan is directly a result of the changing tactics and strategies of the Taliban over the past one year during which they have intensified their campaigns of indiscriminate bombings. The use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted on roadsides for the purpose of targeting Afghan and international military convoys more often results into deaths of unsuspecting civilians. Moreover, the Taliban and other militant groups have begun a gruesome campaign of killing community elders throughout the country especially in the South and East.
The Taliban and their brethren kill former commanders or tribal and community elders who are perceived to be opposed to Taliban now or in the future. Another disturbing trend is the Taliban and other militant groups' increasing willingness to accept deaths of innocent civilians as collateral damage when they target government and military installations. For example, in the recent attack on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, the objective of the militants was a symbolic attack on the venue of a transition process conference attended by government officials.
The fact that during the attack many civilians got killed no longer concerns the Taliban as they are now ready to kill as many civilians as they can only to achieve their objectives. In their fanatical zeal to assert their power, now the militants are more willing than ever to indulge in indiscriminate killing of civilians. The atrocities committed by the Taliban are obvious and evident enough for all to see. This report by UNAMA is just another file in a huge dossier of the atrocities and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Taliban and their brethren.
For their killing of plain civilians and perpetrating other heinous crimes against humanity, whether now or during their rule in 1990s, Taliban must be tried in International Court of Justice and their leaders and facilitators brought to justice. Cowering in front of them and sending them signals of weakness such as the recent removal of their leaders' names from the international blacklist only emboldens them and allows them to kill yet more civilians in the name of God with total impunity.