A new biannual U.N. report is not encouraging for hopes that Afghanistan might maintain some measure of stability as U.S. troops draw down. The report counts 4,853 civilian casualties in the first half of 2014 including 1,564 deaths, a 17 percent increase over the number of deaths in the same period last year.
Child casualties more than doubled and the number of women casualties increased by 60 percent. The reason is the changing nature of the violence. For the first time, more civilians were killed by crossfire in battles between government and anti-government forces than by improvised explosive devices. Suicide attacks are also down this year.
This means more violence is taking place in heavily populated areas where women and children are likely to be found. As one U.N. official put it, “the fight is increasingly taking place in communities, in public places, near playgrounds, and near the homes of ordinary Afghans.”
The report states that as international military bases close, Afghan security forces are struggling to maintain control in a number of areas.
Meanwhile, in a country that didn’t really need another source of political instability, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah is threatening to declare his own government after rejecting preliminary results that show a victory for his opponent, Ashraf Ghani.