Afghanistan has seen an “alarming” near-doubling of roadside bomb attacks over the past year, a UN report says.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday that “security incidents” have risen significantly as US-led forces make a push in the south and militant activities have grown in the southeast and eastern regions of Afghanistan.
“The rise in incidents involving improvised-explosive devices constitutes an alarming trend, with the first four months of 2010 recording a 94 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2009,” the report to the UN Security Council said.
More complex attacks
The report added that suicide attacks involving more complex planning have doubled from last year to roughly two per month, which “demonstrates a growing capability of the local terrorist networks linked to al-Qaeda”.
Killings of civilians by insurgents aiming to take control of urban populations have also increased 45 per cent from last year, to a rate of seven a week, mostly taking place in the south and southeast, it said.
The report came at the end of a week in which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Afghan government and its international backers were making progress stabilising the country.
“We think that we’re making progress, we know how hard it is,” Clinton told a news conference in Washington on Friday, saying that “the Afghan military and police are improving”.
“There’s a lot of positive indicators,” she added, citing advances in education, health, government capacity, agricultural output and economic growth.
1% decrease in civilian casualties
Ban’s UN report also noted conflict-related civilian casualties decreased one per cent compared to last year, but officials said at least five civilians, including two young girls, died in a NATO air strike on Saturday targeting the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan.
“We have received five bodies of civilians in our provincial public hospital,” Khost provincial health director Amirbadshah Rahmatzai Mangal told AFP.
“The dead include two female children of seven and eight years of age. A 14-year-old boy was wounded.”
Khost provincial police chief general Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai said six civilians and 38 Taliban militants were killed by the bombing in the mountainous area on the Pakistan border.
Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, has made minimising civilian casualties a central tenet of his counter-insurgency strategy and has ordered reduced air strikes to help achieve the objective.
The Pentagon on Thursday said US-led forces were making headway against the Taliban, but it was “overshadowed” by violence in southern provinces and what it called an overly gloomy portrayal of the war shaped by media coverage.
The rising death toll in Afghanistan is unwelcome news for Washington and its allies, whose electorates are increasingly frustrated by casualties in a seemingly endless and faraway war.
A June 6 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 39 per cent of Americans said the US was losing the war in Afghanistan, and that 53 per cent said the war was not worth fighting.
France announced that one of its soldiers serving with NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan died in hospital on Friday from wounds suffered when his armoured vehicle convoy came under artillery fire from insurgents.
He became the 274th foreign soldier killed in Afghanistan this year, according to an AFP tally based on figures kept by the independent icasualties广西桑拿, website.
Two Afghan policemen were also killed and four other people wounded on Saturday when a remote controlled bomb hit a police vehicle as it passed a local market in the central province of Uruzgan, governor Juma Gul Himat told AFP.
US President Barack Obama has ordered a surge that will see troop numbers, currently estimated at 142,000, peak at 150,000 by August before an intended drawdown in 2011.