The head of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, recently expressed outrage via Telegram over the increased number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, which he blamed on the U.S. military and Afghan government security forces “enlisted by them.” Kadyrov added: “Speaking about the production of drugs, this indicator has increased many times since the arrival of the American armed forces. The Afghan people are being abused. And there is no clear end to it.”
The Pentagon maintains approximately 14,000 personnel in Afghanistan for “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” tasked with helping the Afghan government “to support and sustain its forces.”
Kadyrov cited the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UANAMA) “Quarterly Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: January 1 to March 31,” which was released on April 24.
The report does not provide data on drug trafficking in Afghanistan.
As Kadyrov noted, the UN data shows “significant increases in civilian casualties from aerial and search operations, which drove an overall increase in civilian casualties by pro-government forces.”
“Between 1 January and 31 March 2019, UNAMA attributed 608 civilian casualties (305 deaths and 303 injured) to Pro-Government Forces, representing a 39 percent increase from the same period last year. UNAMA notes with concern that Pro-Government Forces were responsible for more civilian deaths than Anti-Government Elements during the first quarter of 2019,” the report states.
The breakdown of the data demonstrates that UNAMA attributed 17% of civilian casualties to the Afghan national security forces, 13% to international military forces, two percent to pro-government armed groups, and two per cent to multiple pro-government forces.
However, the UN report does not confirm Kadyrov’s claim that “around 400 civilians have died through the fault of the U.S. troops and the forces of official Kabul enlisted by them.” In fact, a total of 305 civilians were killed as a result of actions by international forces, Afghan government forces and pro-government forces taken together. International forces alone were responsible for 146 deaths.
The U.S. currently accounts for some 14,000 of the roughly 17,000 troops from 39 countries on the ground in Afghanistan as part of the NATO’s mission “Resolute Support.”
So, Kadyrov is right in pointing that anti-government forces in Afghanistan account for fewer civilian deaths than the pro-government side. However, Kadyrov’s overstatement of the numbers and his tendency to overly attribute the numbers to the U.S. earns our verdict of “misleading.”