destroyed house
© Reuters/Nasir Wakif
An Afghan man inspects a house destroyed during an air strike.
More Afghan civilians are being killed by US and pro-government forces than by the Taliban and other insurgents, the UN reports, 18 years after US military involvement in the country began.

Between January and March 2019, 581 civilians were killed in Afghanistan, 305 died at the hands of foreign and pro-government forces, while insurgent groups killed 227 people, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a newly published quarterly report.

"It's not that the US is going out to kill civilians as such, if they get in the way, they get in the way," former Pentagon analyst Michael Maloof told RT.
Civilian deathchart
© United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

"The rules of engagement have been greatly liberalized and you're having more aerial attacks, which don't discriminate with bombs, unless you get some good intelligence, and inevitably the intelligence isn't always that good," Maloof added, referring to President Donald Trump's 2017 relaxation of the rules of US engagement in Afghanistan.

Taliban members are also hiding in populated areas, "knowing that civilians could get killed and that will become a propaganda tool for them," he explained.

US air strikes killed 140 civilians, while Afghan government strikes killed 5. The majority of the other non-insurgent deaths occurred during ground engagements and search operations conducted by US-backed Afghan forces, whom the UNAMA said "appear to act with impunity." UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto said a "shocking number" of civilians are being killed and called on all parties to do more to protect civilians.

Chart civilian casualties
© United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Colonel Dave Butler, spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan, said in a statement: "We reserve the right of self-defense of our forces as well as the Afghan Security Forces," and the US military holds itself to the "highest standards of accuracy and accountability."

Maloof told RT that the Pentagon has carried out studies "to determine what is an acceptable level of civilian casualties", adding: "They have concluded that civilians being killed in Afghanistan are within this acceptable range of casualties that would be allowed in any warfare."

Some 7,362 US bombs were dropped in Afghanistan in 2018, compared to 4,361 in 2017, the US Air Force Central Command reports. The 2018 bombing figures were the highest seen since 2010.

Asked about the chances of the US successfully being able to pull out of Afghanistan, Maloof said:
"I don't think it will be successful, I think what US is looking for is way to ease out without compromising or losing the government that exists there now. The whole policy formulation going on in that area right now is for watching and squeezing Iran. I think the US has come to [the] conclusion it cannot begin to kick out the Taliban again like it did back in 2001."