According to the report, there were 3,804 civilian deaths last year, the highest total ever recorded by the United Nations and an 11 percent increase over 2017. Overall civilian casualties rose 5 percent, to 10,993, but the total was slightly below the more than 11,000 casualties reported in 2015 and 2016.
Among the dead last year were 927 children, also the highest annual total reported by the United Nations. Insurgents were responsible for 44 percent of child casualties in 2018, with Afghan and American forces blamed for 34 percent. The number of children killed in airstrikes more than doubled in 2018 compared with 2017, the report said.
In a statement, Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, called the casualty figures “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.” Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, called the record number of children killed “particularly shocking.”
The United Nations acknowledged efforts by Afghan and American forces, and the Taliban, to protect civilians.
But the report urged the Taliban to end the use of indiscriminate bomb attacks against civilians. It called on the Afghan government and the United States to more rigorously investigate allegations of civilian casualties and to provide reparations.
In a letter included in the report, the United States military command in Kabul, the Afghan capital, said “all feasible precautions” were taken to limit civilian casualties. Any allegation of civilian casualties considered “serious” resulted in “an inquiry and formal review process,” the letter said.
The American letter listed 62 confirmed deaths and 55 confirmed injuries from American combat operations in 2018. An additional 68 deaths and 66 injuries were listed as “disputed” because of insufficient information but could be reviewed further if new information comes to light.