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Civilian Deaths on the Rise in Afghanistan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Afghan forces are scheduled to take over all combat duties from American soldiers by the end of 2014, but a new report on civilian deaths indicates it’s going to be a difficult challenge.

According to a United Nations report, the number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan rose by 23 percent in the first six months of 2013.  The increase reverses a decline in 2012.

The report of civilian casualties by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says the Taliban continues to be responsible for the majority of casualties and has increased the indiscriminate use of roadside bombs and suicide attacks in cities.

According to the report, from January to June of 2013, the number of civilians killed in war-related violence rose to 1,319 from 1,158 a year earlier.  Another 2,533 civilians were injured in the same time period, compared with 1,976 in 2012.

Observers note that the insurgency has stepped up its attacks in an effort to undermine Afghan confidence in the government institutions during the security transition.  That includes attacks in major cities where Afghans often find themselves in harm’s way and in areas where the international forces have shut down bases or reduced their presence.

The New York Times notes that throughout the first half of the year, women and children were being killed by roadside bombs almost daily, particularly in south Afghanistan, where insurgents have sown homemade bombs through much of the terrain.

The United Nations report found that the devices accounted for more than a third of the civilian casualties in the first half of 2013, helping drive a 30-percent increase in injuries and deaths of children.

According to the Times, the Taliban has been under pressure in recent years to reduce civilian casualties.  The newspaper says Taliban leaders have even issued edicts demanding more caution from fighters and have set up a committee to prevent the loss of innocent lives.

“Unfortunately the reality has not been borne out, and we have not seen a great reduction in civilian casualties by them,” said Georgette Gagnon, the United Nations director of human rights for Afghanistan.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio