By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 - The Taliban are responsible for the rising civilian death toll in Afghanistan, a top military commander in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said here today.
At a Pentagon news conference, Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of ISAF Joint Command, confirmed a United Nations report that said civilian deaths in Afghanistan rose 8 percent in 2012. But he pointed out that the Taliban, in what he called reckless disregard for Afghans, were responsible for the vast majority of those civilian deaths.
Scaparrotti's command, based in the Afghan capital of Kabul, directs day-to-day military operations in Afghanistan.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released a report Feb. 4 documenting that 3,021 Afghan civilians were killed in the war in the country in 2011. This is an increase from 2010, when 2,790 Afghans died. The number of casualties caused by the NATO force dropped, and 77 percent of the 2011 casualties were caused by the enemy.
The overall increase in casualties "is an increase predominantly because of the enemy's ... targeting against civilians," the general said.
The rise in casualties is a measure of the Taliban's condition, Scaparrotti said. In the past, he explained, the Taliban had the freedom of action that allowed them to organize attacks against coalition and Afghan government forces.
"The freedom of action they show today is increasingly in [roadside bombs] and suicide bombing," he said. "They don't have the capability to take us on directly." The Taliban, in fact, changed their tactics, techniques and procedures to target Afghans, he added.
Suicide bombers cause civilian casualties, and one in three roadside bomb explosions kill civilians, not military personnel, Scaparrotti said.
"What I would focus on is the fact that you've got an enemy who has stated that he is concerned about the people, that he doesn't want to harm the people in his actions, and yet over these years you've seen a steady increase in that happening," he said.
"On the other hand" he added, "we work very, very hard to drive down the ... civilian casualties. It did go down 4 percent this year. And we'll continue to try and drive that down as well."
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