Kabul: Escalating violence in Afghanistan is now the worst since the early months of the nearly 9-year-old war, killing 1,074 civilians so far this year as international forces struggle to establish security, an Afghan rights group said Monday.
However, the share of civilians killed by international forces is dropping — and the number dying in NATO airstrikes has halved — thanks to restrictive rules of engagement issued last year, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor said.
Despite speculation that newly arrived coalition commander Gen. David Petraeus would change the policy, which critics say increases danger to American and other foreign troops, a NATO spokesman reiterated over the weekend that would not happen.
Violence has soared across Afghanistan in recent months, as 30,000 more American troops arrived to bolster the international force. The reinforcements are moving into Taliban strongholds in the south and east of the country to try to strengthen Afghan government control, and insurgents have responded with a wave of ambushes, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and assassinations.
The war`s escalation has taken a huge toll on the Afghan people, with 212 civilians killed last month alone, said Ajmal Samadi, director of the independent Afghanistan Rights Monitor, which compiled its statistics from interviews with witnesses, families of victims, local officials and media reports.
The group, which is supported by private donations, recorded 1,200 violent incidents in June, the highest number in any single month since 2002.
"In terms of insecurity," it said in a new report, "2010 has been the worst year since the demise of the Taliban regime."
Last month was also the deadliest of the war for coalition forces, with 103 international troops killed, 60 of them American.
The majority of the civilians killed so far this year — 61 percent — died in insurgent attacks, particularly from roadside bombs the Taliban plant across the country, said the group.
The rise in civilian casualties shows the international force has yet to succeed in its goal of protecting the Afghan people, the centerpiece of the NATO counterinsurgency strategy. The aim is to provide security against Taliban attacks to win support of the population so they will give information to authorities on the insurgents.