The number of civilians killed or wounded in fighting in Afghanistan climbed by 22% in 2014 to reach the highest level in five years as foreign troops concluded their combat mission, the UN says in an annual report released today. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in 2014 documented 10,548 civilian casualties, which include deaths and injuries—the highest number in a single year since 2009. Of those, there were 3,699 civilian deaths, up 25% from 2013. The UN says the Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 72% of all civilian casualties, with government forces and foreign troops responsible for just 14%.
The UN report attributed the rise in casualties to intensified ground fighting, in which weapons like mortars, rockets, and grenades are used in populated areas, sometimes indiscriminately. For the first time since 2009, more Afghan civilians were killed and injured by ground fighting than by any other tactic, including roadside bombs. The report found that civilian deaths and injuries resulting from ground operations surged by 54%, making them the "biggest killers of Afghan women and children in 2014." At least 2,213 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the invasion to topple the Taliban following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to an AP count. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)