The researchers behind the study conducted as part of the Costs of War Project at UK's Brown University believe that the rising number of civilian deaths was the result of the US decision to loosen its rules of engagement for airstrikes in 2017. In 2019, international airstrikes killed 700 civilians in Afghanistan, which was the biggest figure than in any other year since the beginning of the war in 2001.
"The total number of civilians killed by international and Afghan Air Force air strikes increased. International military forces, led by the U.S., are responsible for the majority of those killed by airstrikes from 2015 through 2019: 1,357 killed by international forces, compared to 461 killed by the AAF [Afghan Air Force]. The number of civilians killed by international airstrikes increased about 330 percent from 2016, the last full year of the Obama Administration, to 2019, the most recent year for which there is complete data from the United Nations," the study read.
It is noted that after reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban in late February 2020, the intensity of international air strikes in Afghanistan declined. At the same time, the number of airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force has increased.
"The Afghan government is now negotiating with the Taliban and as part of a broader offensive, perhaps aimed at increasing Afghan government leverage in the talks, air strikes by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) have increased. As a consequence, the AAF is harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history," the study said.
In the first six months of this year, the AAF killed 86 and injured 103 Afghan civilians in airstrikes, while between July and late September, the number of killed and injured Afghan civilians totaled 70 and 90, respectively.
The intra-Afghan peace negotiations began in the Qatari capital of Doha back in September. Both sides announced last week that they had come to an agreement on the framework of the talks, allowing for discussions to now be held on substantive issues.