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AOAV responds to news of coalition troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Having let slip the dogs of war, the US-led coalition appears to be stepping away from the responsibility of the harm those hounds have caused. Have they, to coin a phrase, destroyed the country in order to save it?

Reports today have emerged that the final UK troops in Afghanistan are expected to leave at the same time as US forces, which have announced they are set to pull out by September 11. The US and UK military has been in Afghanistan since 2001. Nato has repeatedly said its members will leave together.

But what state of country have these troops left Afghanistan in?

The answer is unequivocal: a bad one.

Last year, 2020, for the first time since Action on Armed Violence’s (AOAV) monitor on global explosive violence harm began in 2011, Afghanistan was seen to be the worst impacted country in the world with regard to civilian casualties harmed by explosive weapons.

Our findings, captured from English-language media, also reflects data released by the United Nations in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which listed a total of 8,820 civilian casualties from violence in 2020 alone  (3,035 killed, 5,785 were injured). Their figures included 2,451 children killed or injured.

AOAV’s data also shows that the situation in Afghanistan has significantly deteriorated  in recent years, with civilian casualties from explosive violence rising in both 2018 and 2019. Our 2018 AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor saw Afghanistan become the second worst conflict-affected country globally, behind only Syria. This was particularly pertinent given that AOAV recorded a fall of 30% in the number of global deaths and injuries from explosive violence from 2017 to 2018. A similar trend was seen in 2019; whilst civilian casualties from explosive violence recorded globally fell by some 13% from the previous year, Afghanistan saw a year-on-year increase by 8%.

Overall, between 2011-2020, AOAV recorded some 49,039 deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Afghanistan. Of these, 28,356 (58%) were civilians.

It can’t be ignored, too, just how deadly Afghanistan has proved as a battleground for US-coalition troops.  AOAV looked at UK and US combat deaths there and found that three times the number of UK soldiers were shot and killed in Afghanistan than they were in Iraq. And that both nations suffered greater deaths in terms of deployed personnel in Afghanistan than Iraq; indeed, the UK military suffered almost three quarters of its total deaths in the ‘War on Terror’ there.

Given such loss of life of military personnel – where, in Afghanistan, 406 (89.4%) of 454 UK personnel fatalities were combat related and 1,881 (83.1%) of 2,263 US military fatalities were in combat – and given Afghanistan today proves to be one of the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian (a truth that was not the case in 2000) – the question has to be: “was it worth it?”

This charity believes not.