UN Highlights Shift in Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

Under an odd headline, “UN Blames Taliban for Afghan Toll,” and buried a couple of paragraphs down, the NY Times reports that a new United Nations survey (pdf) notes a 28 percent reduction in civilian deaths caused by U.S.-led forces — striking to say the least.

The reduction is attributed to new strategies and directives by Gen. McChrystal, including limitations put on airstrikes in residential areas. The Times also notes a new directive to limit controversial night raids, despite the strategic advantage of such operations for U.S. troops. 

Similar concerns voiced by the Taliban’s Mullah Omar have not resulted in similar reductions. The Taliban killed 40 percent more civilians in 2009 than in 2008.

Despite the overall bad news that civilian deaths increased by 14 percent in 2009 (2412 killed) and that U.S. and Nato combat deaths jumped from 295 to 520, one can hope that this shift in strategy holds the prospect of a shift in allegiance among some of the Afghan people, a necessity for long-term success in Afghanistan.