Civilians killed in air strikes in Afghanistan soars by more than 300%

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The number of Afghan civilians killed in air strikes carried out by the US and its allies has risen 330% since 2017, a US study says.

In 2019 alone, around 700 civilians were killed, the Costs of War Project at Brown University says.

It is the highest figure since the first years of the US-led offensive following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The group attribute the rising figures to the US relaxing its rules of engagement in 2017.

Media caption, The BBC enters Taliban-controlled territory in Faryab province, Afghanistan's 'no-man's land'

Researchers say the increase in air strikes was partly because there are fewer US troops on the ground, but also seemed to have the aim of putting more pressure on the Taliban to negotiate peace.

The US pulled back on air strikes after reaching a deal with the Taliban in February 2020. It has also promised to reduce the number of troops in the country.

But the Costs of War Project found that the the Afghan military has stepped up its own aerial attacks in the months since the US-Taliban agreement was made, as the government in Kabul remains in talks with the militant group.

The Afghan Air Force is now "harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history", the group's research paper says.

In the first six months of 2020, 86 civilians were killed and 103 injured in air strikes by the Afghan military.

Last month, the Save the Children charity found that an average of five children have been killed or wounded every day for the past 14 years in Afghanistan.

Data from the UN showed at least 26,025 children were killed or maimed from 2005 to 2019, the group said.

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