AOAV’s monitoring project, launched in October 2010, uses English-language media reports to capture information on who has been killed and injured by incidents of explosive violence. We have over 10 years of explosive violence data recorded and analysed. The data below focuses on Afghanistan.
Explosive Violence in Afghanistan in 2021
Last year, 2021, Afghanistan was found to be the worst-affected country in terms of civilian casualties of explosive weapons for the second consecutive year. 3,051 civilians became casualties of explosive weapon use in 2021, 1,005 of whom were killed and 2,046 injured. Civilians accounted for 55% of the total 5,585 casualties recorded in Afghanistan. When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, civilians accounted for 85% (2,819) of the casualties (3,311).
Though worst-affected, civilian casualties in Afghanistan declined by 12% in 2021 compared to 2020.
IEDs were responsible for the majority of civilian harm, accounting for 77% of civilian casualties in 2021. Last year (2021) marked the fifth consecutive year in which Afghanistan suffered the highest civilian casualties from IEDs globally (since 2017). There were 2,347 civilian deaths and injuries recorded in Afghanistan from IEDs, a 0.4% decline since 2020 (which itself had seen a 34% decrease in civilian casualties from IEDs compared to 2019).
There was a 37% decrease in civilian casualties from ground-launched explosive weapons, such as shelling and grenade incidents (from 751 civilian casualties in 2020 to 476 in 2021). The number of civilian casualties from air-launched weapons also decreased last year by some 47% – from 333 in 2020, to 178 in 2021.
The perpetrators of attacks in Afghanistan were frequently unknown, with both Islamic State and the Taliban deploying similar attacks across the country and rarely claiming responsibility. At least 320 civilian casualties were caused by explosive incidents carried out by the Taliban, 47% less than in 2020 (606). The number of civilian casualties reportedly caused by the Islamic State was nearly triple that of the previous year, with 713 civilian casualties recorded in 2021, compared to 266 in 2020.
These changes are likely to have occurred due to the changing political situation in Afghanistan which saw the Taliban take control of the country in August 2021; resulting in an end to Taliban explosive violence and a rise in Islamic State attacks.
Since Action on Armed Violence’s monitor on global explosive violence harm began in 2011, AOAV has recorded 31,477 civilian casualties from explosive weapons in Afghanistan, and 54,695 casualties in total (to date: 31 Dec 2021).
A Decade of Data in Review: Afghanistan, 2011-2020
- Afghanistan has been the third worst-affected state by explosive violence globally over the past decade
- From 2011-2020, AOAV recorded 49,039 deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Afghanistan – of these, 28,356 (58%) were civilians
- When explosive violence was used in populated areas, 83% of those killed or injured were civilians
- IEDs caused, by far, the most harm in this period, with 79% of all civilian casualties resulting from this type of explosive
- Ground-launched weapons were responsible for 10% of civilian casualties, whilst airstrikes accounted for 8%
- 2019 was the worst year in this period for civilian casualties in Afghanistan, with AOAV recording 4,630 deaths and injuries from explosive violence
AOAV has consistently recorded Afghanistan among the countries worst impacted by explosive violence. Over the first five years of the Explosive Violence Monitor, from 2011-2015, AOAV recorded 1,701 incidences of explosive harm, resulting in 10,712 civilian deaths or injuries. This figure made Afghanistan the country fourth worst-affected by explosive violence in the first five years of the Monitor, with only Iraq, Syria and Pakistan recording more casualties.
Between 2011 and 2015 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were by far the most common cause of civilian harm in Afghanistan. In this period, AOAV recorded a total of 1,159 separate IED attacks in the country, causing 80% (8,608) of all recorded civilian deaths and injuries. This is a trend which has continued over the course of the Monitor, with IEDs regularly accounting for four-out-of-five civilian deaths.
Although Afghanistan remained the country fourth worst-affected by explosive violence in the 2016 AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor, there was a sharp increase in civilian casualties the following year. As a result, the 2017 Monitor recorded Afghanistan as the world’s third worst-affected state by explosive violence. Between 2016 and 2017 there was a 42% increase in the number of civilians killed or injured by explosive violence, with AOAV recording 3,119 civilian casualties over the course of 2017.
In recent years, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated further, with civilian casualties rising in both 2018 and 2019. The 2018 AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor saw Afghanistan rise to the second worst conflict-affected country, behind only Syria. Over the year, AOAV recorded 4,268 civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan – representing a 37% rise from the previous year. This was particularly pertinent given that AOAV had also recorded a global fall of 30% in the number of deaths and injuries from explosive violence from 2017 to 2018.
Although the sheer extent of violence perpetrated in Syria in 2018 served to shadow casualties recorded in Afghanistan, AOAV still recorded more than twice as many civilian casualties in Afghanistan than in Yemen – the next most conflict-affected state. This is testament to the scale and intensity of the violence that occurred in Afghanistan in 2018.
A similar trend appeared in 2019. Whilst civilian casualties from explosive violence recorded globally had fallen by 13% from the previous year, Afghanistan saw another year-on-year increase – this time by 8%. The 4,630 civilian casualties recorded by AOAV made 2019 the worst year for civilian harm in Afghanistan over the ten-year history of the Monitor. As in the year before, the 2019 Monitor ranked Afghanistan second to Syria in the list of countries worst-affected by explosive violence.
As was the case previously, explosive violence recorded in 2018 and 2019 was overwhelmingly the result of IEDs – accounting for 78% of civilian casualties in both years. However, there has also been a clear rise in both airstrikes and the use of ground-launched weapons in Afghanistan in recent years, bringing with it increased civilian harm. For example, civilian casualties caused by airstrikes almost doubled from 238 in 2017, to 468 in 2018; the number rose again to 502 in 2019.
Increased explosive violence and corresponding civilian harm in 2018 and 2019 was primarily the result of a growing number of incidents perpetrated by the Taliban and Islamic State. In 2019, AOAV recorded that the Taliban were responsible for at least 41% of all civilian deaths and injuries in the country, whilst ISIS claimed responsibility for at least 12% of all casualties. This being said, accurately determining which group was responsible for attacks has become increasingly difficult.
In 2020, explosive harm in Afghanistan remained high. Although there was a 26% fall in civilian casualties when compared with 2019, the 3,417 deaths and injuries recorded in 2020 meant that Afghanistan was cited by AOAV as the country worst-affected by explosive violence for the first time in the past decade. This highlighted the fact that, despite a downward trajectory in the levels of explosive violence recorded globally in recent years, violence in Afghanistan has continued to endure. It is also clear that the commencement of peace talks in September 2020, between the Taliban and Afghan government, has done little to drastically reduce explosive violence and civilian harm in the country.
Between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2020, AOAV has recorded 49,039 deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Afghanistan. Of these, 58% (28,356) were civilians. As a result, in the ten years of the AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor, Afghanistan has been the third worst-impacted country by explosive violence, behind only Syria and Iraq. Although Afghanistan has recorded a much lower proportion of civilian casualties to total casualties, when compared with Iraq and Syria, ongoing violence in the country, and the forty years of conflict that precedes it, has had unimaginable effects on the Afghan people. AOAV have looked to explore this impact further in two recent reports, one exploring the impact of the conflict in Afghanistan on civilian mental health and another exploring the impact of explosive weapons on children in Afghanistan.
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